Lonely Planet Writer

Free expedited screening for US frequent fliers to cost a fee in future

The US Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) has notified frequent fliers that its expedited security procedures for select passengers, which has been free for several years, will soon cost a fee.

JFK amps up security as Ebola threat increases.
JFK and other US airports to charge for expedited security. Image by saaby / CC BY-SA 2.0

Tens of thousands of frequent fliers have being opting in to the TSA program, which has enabled travelers deemed low-risk to skip many of the screening procedures at airports. Fliers must share their airline travel history that has been stored by US airline loyalty programs as a precaution.

The TSA is tapering off the free service over the coming weeks. The agency is encouraging users to instead sign up for one of a few paid services.

More than one million US travelers have enrolled in these services so far.

TSA PreCheck allows for shoes, jackets, and belts to stay on at departure through dedicated security lanes using a barcode on boarding passes. Laptops can stay in bags, too. It requires an in-person interview at one of 330 application centers, including most major airports. Fingerprinting and providing other documentation is also a must. The cost is $85, and membership is good for five years.

If your travel is primarily US/Canada border crossing, then NEXUS may be right for you. This U.S. Customs and Border Protection program provides photo identification cards that permit speedy passage through security checkpoints across the border. It requires an interview at a NEXUS station, found at many major border crossings, plus proof of citizenship or residence. It costs $50 and is good for 5 years.

CLEAR is a privately run program is not associated with the TSA, but it has similar requirements for membership as the TSA-run program. It is only available at 10 major US airports, where you must register in-person for fingerprinting and iris-scanning, plus the presenting of proof of citizenship or residence. It costs $179 a year, plus $50 per adult family member.

The above three programs are reserved for US citizens and permanent residents.

But foreign visitors can also sign up for expedited screening via Global Entry (GOES). This U.S. Customs and Border Protection program provides pre-approved clearance upon landing at participating airports. Online forms must be sent in for pre-clearance, and the traveler must go to a Global Entry kiosk at an airport and scan their fingertips. A receipt is generated to show an agent for a quick exit. The program comes with the Transportation Security Administration’s TSA Pre check program. Membership costs $100 and is valid for five years.