3 Programs that Make Airport Security Checks Easier
by Henry Benjamin
Airport security. Arguably the least glamorous part of any travel experience. Whether it’s the first step of your journey or the last, it usually manages to be a perfect amalgam of stressful, time-consuming, and boring. Even an experienced traveler can only do so much to streamline it, so it’s only logical to ask (maybe as you stand in line with your shoes and belt in your hands), “Is there any way for me to speed this up?”
1. CLEAR (https://www.clearme.com/how-it-works/)
Smoothing out some of the bumpier parts of domestic travel is CLEAR, which goes a step further than a digital copy of an existing form of identification and creates a code for you that is as unique as your fingerprints and irises. As a member, you are your identification, and simply need to find the dedicated CLEAR line at participating airports, scan your biometrics, and proceed straight to the physical check. Straightforward and reliable, given the odds of forgetting your fingers or eyes at home.
Full access to all CLEAR locations costs $179 per year, and up to three family members can be added for an additional $50 per year each. Members of the Delta SkyMiles program can also get discounted rates based on their SkyMiles ranking. CLEAR can be used in conjunction with other programs like TSA PreCheck to achieve an even faster, easier airport security experience.
2. TSA PreCheck (https://www.tsa.gov/precheck)
Where the previous option handles the more paper-based aspects of airport security, TSA PreCheck handles the physical screening. With a PreCheck membership, you can go through security without removing your shoes, belt, light jacket, laptop, or 3-1-1 liquids. No need to worry about the congested, Darwinian scene that is getting everything into the proper bins and onto the conveyor belt.
To become a member of the PreCheck program, you must first submit an online application and arrange an in-person appointment for a background check and fingerprinting. Fortunately, there are over 380 enrollment centers across the country, so finding one near you is unlikely to be much trouble. Once you have been approved, you can obtain a five-year membership for $85, and speed through physical screening at any of the more than 200 participating airports across the US.
3. Global Entry (https://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/global-entry)
Global Entry, as the name implies, applies to more specific conditions than the other options highlighted here. Members of the Global Entry program get to experience significantly faster clearance when arriving in the US. Participating airports contain Global Entry kiosks that automate and expedite the entry process. All a Global Entry member needs to do is present their passport or permanent residence card, scan their fingerprint, and make their customs declarations.
Potential Global Entry program members must be pre-approved, do an in-person interview, and get a meticulous background check, and once deemed eligible may purchase a five-year membership for $100. However, anyone deemed eligible for Global Entry is also eligible for TSA PreCheck and can put their membership number in the “Known Traveler Number” field during the flight booking process to participate.