Going through PreCheck now can save you time later at airport

john.gillie@thenewstribune.comMarch 25, 2014 

A 15-minute appointment at a nondescript storefront in a Fife strip mall could help you avoid the inconvenience and indignity of the full shoes- coat- and belt-off security screening at the airport.

That storefront at 4500 Pacific Highway E., next to a Checkmate payday loan and check cashing store, is part of a recently expanded Transportation Security Administration program called PreCheck designed to help speed qualified travelers through the TSA’s airport security lines.

The program was originally available to airlines’ most frequent fliers, but in recent months it has been opened to the general public who are willing to pay the cost — $85 — and undergo a one-time background check to avoid some of the airport security screening process’s most irritating features. Active duty military members also can use the program but without the cost or the TSA pre-screening.

If those who apply pass the background screening and haven’t been convicted of a laundry list of security-related crimes, they receive within a few weeks of their interview a “known travelers number” that they supply their airline when they make their reservations. In most circumstances, that number will cause their boarding passes to be printed with the PreCheck notation. That notation allows those travelers to be routed to a special airport line that’s faster and less intrusive than the regular security line.

That PreCheck line privilege allows passengers to keep their shoes, belts and light coats on during screening and to keep their toiletries and computers inside their bags, said Lorie Dankers, regional public affairs manager for the TSA.

The program in the few months that it’s been available to the general public has become popular. Nearly 130,000 travelers nationwide have joined the program. At the Fife enrollment center, one of four in Western Washington, 1,070 applicants have been interviewed.

Dankers said the Fife center has additional capacity to process more applicants beyond the appointments available through the TSA’s PreCheck Web application page.

“We’ve created capacity to handle drop-in applicants, and some of the scheduled interviews are taking less time than we’ve set aside, so those people interested in enrolling should consider just dropping in even if the Web page shows no appointments available,” she said.

David Dailey, Homeland Security’s regional deputy federal security director, last week went through the interview process at the Fife center. Although Dailey is a high-ranking federal security official, he enjoys no special privileges in passing through airport security. “I travel frequently. It was time for me to join the PreCheck program,” he said.

His interview took about 10 minutes. It concluded when the screener recorded Dailey’s fingerprints with an electronic scanner. Those fingerprints are submitted to a nationwide FBI database to check for a possible criminal record.

If Dailey passes the security screening, he’ll receive his known travelers number within a few weeks.

U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents of the U.S. can begin their application process online by visiting https://universalenroll.dhs.gov and selecting “Pre-Enroll Now” in the TSA PreCheck section of the website. Members of Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry program can submit their Global Entry number in their reservations to receive the same privileges as Pre-Check members.

John Gillie: 253-597-8663 john.gillie@thenewstribune.com

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