From the Travel Desk: Sampling TSA's PreCheck line

  • Article by: KERRI WESTENBERG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 31, 2014 - 8:17 PM
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Passengers made their way through the TSA PreCheck area at Terminal 1 at MSP Airport, Wednesday, May 21, 2014.

Photo: Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

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Thinking I’d walked down the wrong security lane at the New Orleans airport, I asked an agent, “Am I in the PreCheck line?”

“You are now,” she said, as she waved me and my husband and daughter to a shorter line.

It went so fast, I hardly had time to tell them they could keep their shoes on before we walked through the metal detectors.

Turns out that agent was a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) behavior-detection officer. Using her judgment — and some criteria the TSA refuses to divulge to keep criminals guessing — she determined that my family posed no threat.

Most of the people in that line had paid the $85 application fee, filled out forms and provided their fingerprints to become enrolled in the PreCheck program, which allows travelers to whisk through a special line wearing light jackets, belts and shoes and keeping laptops and liquids in their carry-on bags.

For more than a year, TSA has been pulling non-enrolled fliers they deem safe into that line in an effort to shorten the usual security lines and perhaps to entice people to enroll with a breezy test-drive.

If so, the sales pitch worked on me.

Eleven airlines offer the program at 118 airports around the country. In May, Sun Country became the latest airline to sign on.

Some people complain that the $85 application fee isn’t reimbursed to those who don’t make the cut, and that the TSA won’t explain why it came to a decision. I’m willing to take that gamble. Once approved, the status is good for five years.

In Minnesota, there are application centers in Bloomington, Roseville, St. Cloud, Duluth and at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. For details, log onto https://universalenroll.dhs.gov/locator.

 

Contact travel editor Kerri Westenberg at travel@ startribune.com; follow her on twitter @kerriwestenberg.

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