The busy summer travel season is over and the Transportation Safety Administration hopes it marks the end of complaints about long lines at airports and legislators chastising the agency. Part of the strategy is to increase the number of air travelers registering for Trusted Traveler programs such as TSA Pre-check.
If a passenger makes it through a background check and pays $85, for the next five years they get screened faster because they don’t have to take off shoes, belts, light coats and unload computer bags.
TSA Illinois Spokesman Michael McCarthy says 10,000 air travelers are enrolling each day. The closest enrollment center to Bloomington-Normal is in an old milk warehouse near the riverfront in Peoria. McCarthy told WGLT Correspondent Colleen Reynolds, who applied last week, that eventually there should be more pre-check lines than standard security checkpoints. He said, "As that population grows, the idea is that we will add additional pre-check lanes in places where we had standard screening lanes."
McCarthy says so far 3.5 million people have enrolled in Trusted Traveler programs including Global Entry where for an additional $15 dollars, air travelers not only get TSA-Pre-check status, but easier screening at US Customs checkpoints when traveling internationally. Eventually the government would like to see 25 million air travelers enrolled. But, if so many have people have special screening status, won’t that simply create longer lines for those checkpoints? McCarthy compares it to Illinois' Fast Pass lanes versus toll booths. "Even if it appears like a lengthier line, those passengers are receiving a screening that is nearly twice as fast as screening in a standard lane," he said.
Enrollment Center Growth
The number of airlines participating in the TSA Pre-check program is growing with Frontier and Sprint coming on this fall. McCarthy said the TSA is also continuing to add enrollment centers. "There are 400 enrollment centers across the country and some of them might just be around the corner from you and you might not know it. You can check our website for the nearest location."
Bloomington-Normal does not have an enrollment center yet and the Central Illinois Regional Airport is not part of the TSA Pre-check program. CIRA Spokeswoman Fran Streibing said, "We do not officially have the program at our airport. TSA makes that decision and they are currently reviewing our status and we hope it will be instituted sometime yet this calendar year." But she adds, "If a person is already a registered pre-check traveler they do receive some benefits here. They do not have to remove their shoes or jacket but they still have to separate their liquids and we do not have a dedicated pre-check line."
The TSA expects to screen 740 million passengers this fiscal year, a 15% increase since fiscal year 2013.