In the world of airline travel, is it really worth the $85 one has to cough up to the federal government to get a TSA Known Traveler Number in order to obtain pre-check status?
In a word: Yes.
But don’t tell anybody. The problem is that if everybody starts doing it then it won’t be long before the pre-check security lines are longer than the regular ones.
Of course, if one really doesn’t fly that much or is simply trying to save a buck, it’s not worth it. But for those who travel frequently, can’t stand the stress and inconvenience of going through regular security, or simply want to speed things up, then by all means it’s worth it, assuming it’s reasonably affordable.
Is “stressful” really an appropriate word to describe the routine security process? For generally healthy people, not really. But for the elderly and others with physical disabilities it can be very stressful and frustrating to feel the pressure of moving things along, not holding people up, taking the belt off, removing the shoes and jacket, getting the fluids out of the carry-on (which have to be in a zip-locked bag), removing the cellphone, taking out the laptop, removing the wristwatch, the spare pocket change, the key ring and anything else that may trigger an alarm — before walking through the metal detector — and yet STILL facing the possibility of being detained, patted down, and having your fingers and hands tested for chemical residue.
Bust an attitude and all of a sudden more inspection is deemed appropriate and then, oops, you’ve missed your flight.
In fact, I stand corrected. It is stressful — for anybody, and I’m feeling myself getting aggravated just writing about it.
If you just bought a cup of coffee, sorry, it can’t go through. And don’t tell me you were so careless as to forget to leave your grandfather’s pocketknife at home. You’ll forfeit that, as well, or turn around and start over.
Well, at least the latter scenario is understandable. But clearly some changes had to be made as pertains to the elderly and the infirm. Further, why, in the name of efficiency, would anyone else with a clean background check mind paying a fee to avoid some major headaches.
That’s what the pre-check concept is all about. People can sign up at one of over 330 application centers across the United States. It’s an $85 fee and, once approved, the application is good for five years.
My wife and I went to a place just beyond Sam Rittenberg Boulevard off Ashley River Road last February, filled out some paperwork and completed the application process, which involved extensive fingerprinting. We asked a young man whom we happen to know to join us, but somehow he was familiar with the procedure and said there was no way he was going to yield that much personal information to the government.
Impressed, I then wondered why we were doing the same, until all the memories came back. A few weeks later we officially got our Known Traveler Numbers. These, in turn, are provided to the airlines during the purchase of tickets and are identified by boarding pass bar codes.
Once at the airport, one is directed to an express lane. You don’t need to worry about fluids, shoes, jackets, belts or laptops. All I did on a recent trip was remove my cell phone, key ring and watch, place them in one of those small circular receptacles and then zip through the metal detector. No problem.
In fact, I’m not even sure I had to remove the key ring and the watch, but did so anyway just in case.
At any rate, pre-check is without question a much improved airport experience with dramatically shorter wait times and fewer headaches. If you’re a frequent or even a moderately frequent traveler, or just don’t need the absurd indignity of some of the things that the very least suspicious of individuals have to put up with, then it’s certainly worth the $85.
But, as I say, don’t tell anybody else!
Edward M. Gilbreth is a Charleston physician. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.