Airport security program an upgrade in convenience
By Mai Hoang / Yakima Herald-Republic
■ The Yakima TSA PreCheck enrollment center is located at 3601 W. Washington Ave., Suite 1, and is open from noon to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday. Enrollment requires a $85 nonrefundable application processing fee. For more information on enrollment, visit www.tsa.gov/tsa-precheck.
Eula Miller was not happy about enduring at least a 30-minute wait in security recently at the San Antonio, Texas, airport.
Her traveling companion, on the other hand, sailed through in just a few minutes because she was eligible for an expedited screening process called TSA PreCheck.
While still at the airport, Miller, 67, did some quick research on how she, too, could qualify for TSA PreCheck.
To her surprise, she learned that doing so only required a visit to an enrollment center not far from her Terrace Heights home. She was able to start the application online at the airport in San Antonio and by Wednesday, she completed it in Yakima.
“I travel enough where I felt it would be beneficial,” said Miller, who is retired and travels for vacations and family visits.
The new enrollment center, which opened in late March, provides added convenience for local travelers seeking TSA PreCheck eligibility.
So far, about 120 local travelers have completed the TSA PreCheck enrollment process, said Lorie Dankers, a Seattle-based Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman. About 221,000 travelers have enrolled nationally.
The government agency provides TSA PreCheck status to travelers on a flight-by-flight basis, but travelers who are enrolled are more likely to be eligible for expedited screening for flights on 10 American and Canadian airlines, including Seattle-based Alaska Airlines.
A traveler with PreCheck clearance can leave on their shoes, outerwear and belt. At larger airports with separate TSA PreCheck lines, such as the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, passengers do not have to take out their laptop or their liquids/gels bag. Yakima will not have a separate line.
Applicants can begin the TSA PreCheck process online, but will need to finish the process at a local enrollment center. During the visit, applicants must bring documentation to verify citizenship or immigration status and be fingerprinted.
Once enrollment is completed, travelers can access their Known Traveler Number, or KTN, online within five to seven business days. The number will also be sent by mail in two to three weeks. The traveler can then provide the number, which is valid for five years, when making airline reservations.
The TSA PreCheck program started in October 2011, but only a select number of travelers were eligible, including frequent fliers from participating airlines and those enrolled in Global Entry, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection program aimed at frequent international travelers. Many were unable to enroll in the Global Entry program because they did not have a passport.
Now with the new enrollment centers — about 250 have opened nationwide since December — travelers do not need a passport or be a frequent flier to gain eligibility for TSA PreCheck.
“We’ve made it more available to the general public through this process,” Dankers said.
The TSA PreCheck enrollment process also enables the government agency to better identify low-risk travelers. Travelers with certain criminal offenses will not be eligible to enroll for TSA PreCheck.
“We can now concentrate our efforts on travelers we know nothing about,” Dankers said.
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