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Back in September Lufthansa became the 19th airline set up with TSA PreCheck. By joining Air Canada, Etihad, Aeromexico and WestJet, what was once US airlines only — and not even all of them at that — the massive US data-sharing, surveillance and passenger-convenience program had gone global.
The following 30 airlines now participate in PreCheck:
Anything that grows PreCheck is good for wait times and good for passengers who are able to get out of queues more quickly and without giving a peep show to a TSA employee in a booth.
You’ll want to make sure all participating airlines have your Known Traveler Number. I have an itinerary that will now get me PreCheck, but only if the number is on file, I need to have it entered into my profile.
Most people update their frequent flyer account numbers, but if you’re flying without one or using another airline’s frequent flyer program, it won’t go in automatically. So make sure each reservation gets the number.
Getting PreCheck and Expedited Immigration
Global Entry is fantastic skipping the immigration and customs queues when you return to the U.S.
I didn’t love the fingerprinting or background check that went along with it, but I figured all my cell phone data was being logged anyway long before Edward Snowden was cool. So if the surveillance was inevitable I figured I might as well at least get the convenience.
Now that I have it, it’s hard to imagine life without it — and not just queuing up at immigration, but also that I always get PreCheck at TSA now rather than having it be hit-or-miss through my airline elite status.
Four programs provide expedited airport security:
- Nexus is the cheapest and most comprehensive. It’s expedited immigration for Canada, but gets you Global Entry and TSA PreCheck. It’s $50. But credit card and other fee credits don’t advertise rebating the signup cost. It takes approvals on both the US and Canadian sides and while appointments aren’t super-tough to get, it can take 2-4 months to be approved.
- Global Entry is expedited immigration. The fee is $100 and comes with TSA PreCheck. It’s open to US citizens and permament residents, UK citizens, German citizens and Mexican nationals. UK and German citizens have pre-registration requirements through their home country.
- TSA PreCheck is $85 and doesn’t come with any border benefits.
- Sentri is for US-Mexico land crossings, costs $122.50, and includes Global Entry (and PreCheck).
Most US citizens want Global Entry because it includes PreCheck, for an extra $15 gets expedited immigration (of decreasing importance as immigration kiosks roll out), and it reimbursed by more premium credit cards than PreCheck.
Global Entry makes the most sense for many people because many credit cards will rebate the signup cost — for instance the Platinum Card by American Express, Citi Prestige Card, and Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®.
Frequent Canadian visitors should get Nexus, and it’s cheaper, but the waits and dual approvals may discourage.
TSA PreCheck is much quicker to get, but if you want Global Entry (my preference) then:
- Consider a different location. When I first signed up for Global Entry I figured I’d do my registration in DC, but I wanted my appointment faster. There were available appointments at New York JFK so I made an appointment there when I could conveniently pass through the airport.
- Keep checking for available appointments. People make appointments and cancel them especially close in. The system updates in close to real time. Refresh the appointment times page and you may see dates open up.
- Just go in. I’ve had a few readers tell me that they signed up for an appointment in the future. As long as they were signed up for an appointment at some time, somewhere, they could show up at any enrollment center. And if the enrollment center wasn’t busy they could get their interview done on a walk-in basis. There is no guarantee this will work. They don’t have to take you, it may be dependent on who is there that day and their mood. Often appointments take much less time than scheduled and employees sit around, if they’re bored they’ll take you. At least 3 readers have shared they had success with this.
Maintaining Global Entry and PreCheck
Once you have it you don’t want to lose it. When coming into the country be sure to declare chocolates, candy bars, chips, or any various items of sustenance whether open or closed, for personal consumption at the airport or meant as gifts. Even if it’s just chocolates off of your flight.
And be sure to keep your profile up to date for instance if you get a new passport.
Expedited Screening Even When PreCheck Lanes are Closed
Whenever I’m at an airport which doesn’t offer PreCheck, or PreCheck lanes are closed (like in Philadelphia at 6pm or Miami just because), I still get expedited screening.
- You keep your shoes on
- Your Freedom Baggie of liquids stay in your bag (but honestly, they do anyway, I don’t remember the last time I saw a screener insist you take your liquids out of the bag)
- Your laptop is still supposed to come out of your bag
- You go through the metal detector, not the nude-o-scope
I still use a laptop bag that’s “TSA Approved” and so I just have to unclip the bag rather than taking the laptop out.