Rarely a pleasure, flying commercial was disrupted forever on that senseless, sunny morning 12 years ago Wednesday.
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It hasn’t been a ton of fun since then to board an airplane, with all the pat-downs, screenings and other extra security hurdles that have cropped up between the car and coach class.
Some long-overdue relief is on the way in Charleston.
For a fee, of course.
Estimated time of arrival: perhaps by the holiday travel season, according to the government. The Transportation Security Administration this month announced it’s expanding its accelerated passenger screening program known as PreCheck to 100 U.S. airports by Dec. 31, up from 40 now.
Charleston International is among the 60 new participants, along with Myrtle Beach International and Greenville-Spartanburg International.
Corporate road warriors and other local fliers who can ace the PreCheck background check and who are willing to cut a small check can keep their shoes, light jackets and belts on while passing through the dreaded security checkpoints, most times at least. The rules also get less restrictive for carry-on items, such as laptops and liquids. “As TSA continues to move away from a one-size-fits-all approach to transportation security, we are looking for more opportunities to provide the most effective security in the most efficient way possible,” said John S. Pistole, TSA administrator. “Expanding TSA PreCheck to more locations enables many more passengers across the country to experience expedited screening.”
More than 15 million airline passengers have used PreCheck since it was launched two years ago next month, according to the federal agency, which was created after the 9/11 hijackings.
Previously, the accelerated screening lanes were open only to members of frequent-flier programs of select airlines or government-approved “trusted traveler” programs such as Global Entry.
Soon, Charleston travelers can sign up for a chance at making the airport experience a tad more convenient and pleasant. Along with a fingerprint sample, applicants will have to fork over to the TSA $85, which will keep their name in the system for five years, assuming they exhibit good behavior on the ground and in the air. The option could be a hit straight out of the gate among frequent fliers at Charleston International.
For starters, four of the six carriers that serve South Carolina’s busiest airport, including heavyweights Delta Air Lines and US Airways, are already PreCheck participants. The others, Southwest Airlines and JetBlue, have said they plan to enroll in the program soon.
Another selling point for PreCheck is that CHS is about to get more difficult to navigate for passengers for a spell, courtesy of an extensive $200 million overhaul of the main passenger terminal.
The downside is that the $85 entry free, in theory at least, goes about as far as $85 does at any airport lounge or duty-free store. “TSA will always incorporate random and unpredictable security measures throughout the airport,” the TSA said in a statement. “No individual will be guaranteed expedited screening.”
Contact John McDermott at 937-5572.