NEW YORK (MainStreet) As you walk pass the chumps taking off their belts and shoes in the TSA airport security line, past the harried travelers opening their laptops and waiting for the scans of their carry-ons to be completed, it's probably best if you just smile casually and skim your fingers across the brim of your fedora in a polite salute. You're headed for the express line.
The line lurkers will wonder: Is he a diplomat? Special forces? Government agent? Who could possibly qualify to skip the security checkpoint and stroll to their gate with such savoir-faire?
The truth is, you filled out an online application, scheduled an appointment at a TSA application center, paid $85 and are living life in the fast lane with TSA Precheck, a program that offers low-risk travelers access to an expedited airport entry. Once enrolled, you present your boarding pass and government-issued ID and head to the TSA Precheck short line. Your compliant carry-on and even children under 12 can go with you. Keep your shoes and belt on and your laptop in its case.
The express security service is available at 115 airports nationwide for travelers flying on major airlines such as American, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, United and others.
"TSA Precheck helps strengthen security by identifying low-risk individuals through pre-screening," TSA says on its website. "This allows TSA to focus resources on travelers about whom we know less, while providing the most effective security in the most efficient way."
To find an enrollment center near you, click here. You can pre-enroll online and make an appointment. Once there, you'll be fingerprinted and required to provide valid ID and citizenship/immigration documentation.
Successful applicants will receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN) in the mail within two to three weeks. That KTN is valid for five years and is used when booking travel reservations on any of the nine participating airlines.
You may feel like you're traveling the white-gloved service of TWA in the Sixties but there's still no smoking on board.
--Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet