No More Free Ride: TSA Limiting PreCheck to Paying Members

·Associate Travel Editor

If you want to avoid this kind of screening, you’ll need to join PreCheck. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Like any maturing start-up, the TSA is moving away from giving free samples of its PreCheck program to frequent flyers or other lucky travelers who just happened to get picked out of a security line. From here on out, you’ll probably have to be a paid member to have that luxury of not removing your belt or shoes.

The TSA said as much in a recent blog post:  “As more and more travelers obtain KTNs, soon, travelers without a Known Traveler Number or KTN, including those who previously “opted-in” via a frequent flyer program, will notice a reduction in the frequency in which they are chosen for TSA” Pre-Check.

The PreCheck program launched in 2011, and the agency says it now has over 1 million members, plus another 3.6 million eligible for PreCheck under the trusted traveler programs offered by the Department of Homeland Security’s Global Entry, Nexus, and Sentri.

Related: A Pat on the Back: Why the TSA Just Had its Best Year Ever

Up to now, members of frequent flyer programs were able to opt in through their airline to the expedited security screening – a trial subscription, if you will. Same with the “managed inclusion” program of allowing unqualified travelers into the PreCheck line when it gets empty.

But the TSA wants to boost its PreCheck users from 4.6 million to 25 million, which would allow it to focus on the minority of flyers who might actually pose a security threat.

If you want to join the PreCheck club and save some hassle at the airport, there are several ways. You can join PreCheck directly for $85 over five years – there are more than 330 application centers nationwide. You can also join Global Entry for $100 over five years, which has the bonus of expedited screening for international trips.

TravelPulse reported that American Airlines is notifying its AAdvantage members of the policy change, encouraging them to sign up for PreCheck.

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