Since 2001, airport security has evolved dramatically. Procedures change as new threats are identified. TSA PreCheck, one of several Trusted Traveler programs, helps known travelers move more quickly through security.
This program helps verified travelers, who are low risk to flight security, expedite security checkpoints. According to the TSA, in July 2019, 93% of PreCheck passengers cleared security in less than five minutes. To get signed up, you can apply online, but you will need to complete an in-person interview. Once you are approved, you’ll receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN), which will be good for five years. TSA PreCheck costs $85.
Pre-cleared passengers can avoid removing belts, shoes and light jackets. When passing through the security checkpoint with their carry-on luggage, they can also avoid removing their electronic devices and their “3-1-1 compliant bags” containing liquids and gels.
In order to use the TSA Pre✓® security lane at the airport, you must include your known traveler number in the appropriate field of your airline reservation, and the TSA Pre✓® indicator must be visible on your boarding pass and embedded in the barcode. You will not be eligible to access the TSA Pre✓® lane by presenting a trusted traveler card, TSA approval letter or other documentation.
There are a few other Trusted Traveler programs, including Global Entry, that include TSA PreCheck but offer additional benefits as well. Members of these programs receive an identification card that meets the REAL ID standards.
Very similar to the PreCheck process, Global Entry requires an online application and an in-person interview. Global Entry costs $100 for the five-year membership and has the added benefit of an expedited customs process upon re-entry to the United States from abroad.
Relaunched in 2010, Clear is a company helping passengers move through security. This is a bit different. Instead of using travel documents, Clear uses biometric information to help you move through the line. Specifically, they use biometric information from your fingers and your eyes to develop an encrypted code associated with each customer. Customers of Clear, who are also members of TSA PreCheck, can use both programs together. Clear has dedicated lanes that only their customers may use, allowing the customers to bypass the lines and walk right up to the TSA agent, where they follow their standard TSA procedures, so if they are PreCheck members, they can still avoid removing their shoes, jackets, electronic devices and liquids.
Growing rapidly, Clear is available at about 30 airports (including Austin and the airports in both Dallas and Houston) and about 15 stadiums (sadly, none of which are in Texas at this time).
Another big difference is cost. Clear typically costs $179 per year; however, up to three family members can be added for $50 and children under age 18 may use the Clear line for free when traveling with a paid member.
REAL ID-compliant licenses or other acceptable forms of ID, such as a valid passport, federal government Personal Identity Verification (PIV) card or U.S. military ID, will be mandatory for air travel beginning on Oct. 1, 2020. Critically important, on Oct. 1, 2020, individuals who are unable to verify their identity will not be permitted to enter the TSA checkpoint and will not be allowed to fly.
REAL ID-compliant licenses are generally marked by a star on the top of the card. Travelers who are not sure if their ID is compliant should check with their state driver’s license agency. Texas switched to REAL ID-compliant licenses in October 2016, so if you got your license prior to that, you might need to get it renewed. Licenses last renewed in person can likely be renewed online, by phone or by mail within two years of their expiration date. Alternately, you can use a Global Entry, Nexxus or Sentri card.