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Joy of the Week: TSA Pre Check

Man Suitcase webI can tell from personal experience that people who travel for a living are surely very familiar with the TSA.

After the 9/11 attacks on American soil, the Transport Security Administration, originally belonging to the Department of Transportation, was transferred to the Department of Homeland Security and in that process, acquired a hefty amount of security measures to avoid further incidents in the future.

While their purpose may be noble, their methods of enforcing it are dubious at best, especially when the agents are inexperienced and learning the ropes, and are sometimes downright outrageous for the common traveler like me, which may lead to longer wait times, slow lines, unpleasant pat-downs or other unsavory experiences.

But I don’t want you to believe that travelling is always a hassle, especially if your job relies heavily on doing so. Instead, I want to introduce you to TSA Pre Check or as its officially written TSA Pre™, a program that allows experienced or constant travelers, like me, to receive expedited security screening at certain U.S airport checkpoints. It’s like an express method of catching your plane.

The main highlight of this program is that you will be able to forgo certain procedures at the security screening line, like having to take off your shoes and belt or having to remove certain goods from your carry-on, like laptops. This will allow you to save precious time and energy, but is only available to people that meet certain prerequisites.

Taken directly from the TSA Pre™, the people who are eligible to apply in this program have to fulfill certain requirements, the most relevant one being that the applicant must be a U.S. Citizen or a Lawful Permanent Resident with a Known Travel Number (KTN), also known as trusted traveler number.

Sounds amazing, but how does it work?

In all honesty, you’ll have to jump through a few bureaucratic hoops in order to receive the benefits that this program offers, but trust me; the rewards are well worth it.

  1. You’ll first need to double check if you’re eligible to apply; use this handy link to check the prerequisites.
    •  After you  determined your eligibility, you can choose to pre-enroll on the DHS website by filling out this pre check-pre-enroll online form.
  2. You must visit an Application Center (more than 280 nationwide!) to provide basic biographic information. You’ll also be asked to present valid identity, citizenship and immigration documentation. You can forgo the biographical information step and set up an appointment by pre-enrolling as suggested in the optional step. This procedure requires a non-refundable processing fee of $85.
  3. After you’ve successfully enrolled, you’ll have to wait 2-3 weeks for your Known Traveler Number (KTN) to arrive by mail. You can also check the status of your petition using this  link.
  4. After you’ve received you KTN, you will need to provide it every time you book a flight, this will ensure that you will receive the benefits of being a trusted traveler.

Please keep in mind the following points about TSA Pre™ if you happen to have an issue with the program:

  • TSA Pre™ will not affect previously booked flights. Unfortunately, there’s no exception to this rule. You’ll only be able to enjoy the benefits on the flights you booked AFTER you received and supplied your KTN.
  • If you’re booking a flight using a third-party website, you may not have the option to input your KTN, therefore forfeiting the benefits. If it’s possible, be sure to book the flights using the airline’s own website to avoid this.
  • Even though you might have your KTN associated with your frequent flyer profile, it will not automatically associate your profile with the KTN unless you supply it during the booking process.
  • If something comes up and you need to change your reservation, keep in mind that the KTN may not transfer to the new booking, so be sure to always have your KTN at hand in cases like these.


Ok, finally  got my  KTN, but how can I tell if I can enjoy the benefits of the program in my flights?

First of all, congratulations on receiving your KTN! This will be one of the smartest decisions you will make. As a frequent flyer myself, I can attest to that. Now, if you correctly supplied your KTN when you booked your ticket, the TSA Pre™ eligibility may be seen on specific part of the ticket itself, like this.

If your ticket has that mark, you can go directly to the TSA Pre™ lane if you’re in an airport currently participating in the program. If the airport doesn’t participate in the program, you’ll have to head to the standard security lane.

And that’s all there is to it. After you’ve successfully applied and received your awesome KTN, all that’s left is to enjoy the benefits of being a trusted traveler with reduced waiting times, less absurd security measures and more time to lounge in the VIP room while waiting for your flight.

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Frank is a leading trainer in IT Security.

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