Travel like a pro: fly through airport security with TSA PreCheck

You’ve got your boarding pass on your phone. You self-tagged your bags and dropped them off with the nice agent at the counter. And you’ve only been at the airport for five minutes. You’ve got this down, you’re ready to be on that plane and go. But wait, the hard part’s not over. You still have to get through security.

Sound familiar? For many people, one of the biggest pain points of flying is getting through the security screening. The lines always seem to be long, it’s a pain to take your shoes off, pull your laptop out of your bag and put everything back together again afterward, and there’s always that guy just ahead of you who’s doing this for the first time and hadn’t quite prepared for it.

Somehow there’s a select group of people who get their own, quicker line and manage to get through with a lot less fuss. How do you get into this “elite” club? The answer: apply for the TSA’s PreCheck program.

What is TSA PreCheck?

Both the airlines and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) understand that the vast majority of travelers pose no threat to aviation security. Alaska Airlines became the third U.S. airline to join TSA PreCheck in April 2012, offering TSA PreCheck benefits to our customers. TSA PreCheck is an expedited screening program that enables low-risk travelers to enjoy a smart and efficient screening experience at select U.S. airports.

What are the benefits of TSA PreCheck?

You still have to go through security, but:

  • You can keep your shoes, belt and coat on.
  • Your liquids (still at 3 ounces per container and in one quart-sized clear bag) stay in your bag.
  • If you have a laptop, that stays in your bag, too.

How Do You Get TSA PreCheck?

While TSA PreCheck is never guaranteed on a flight, you can ensure that you have the highest probability of consistently breezing through security by enrolling in a trusted traveler program offered by the U.S.. Membership into any of these programs automatically includes TSA PreCheck. If approved, you will receive a ‘known traveler number’ that is valid for 5 years.

TSA PreCheck: You can apply for TSA PreCheck directly with the TSA. The application fee is $85.

Global Entry: This program is geared toward international travel, and expedites your re-entry into the United States. The application is $100 and you need to have a passport or permanent resident card to apply. Global entry is good for 5 years, as well.

NEXUS: This program is for travel between the US and Canada. Application is $50.

SENTRI: This program is for travel between the US and Mexico. Application is $122.25.

A note for Alaska elites

In the past, another way for frequent fliers to receive TSA PreCheck benefits was to auto-enroll and “opt-in” using your Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan. This was part of our partnership with the TSA to provide you with as seamless an experience as possible. This program is ending, so to ensure that you continue to get expedited security, we highly recommend that you sign up for one of the programs above.

For more information, see the TSA’s website at www.tsa.gov/tsa-precheck or visit www.dhs.gov/tt.

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