How to Blow Through Airport Security for Only $100

This weekend the Times travel section wrote about frequent flier security programs, including TSA PreCheck — or, as the government likes to call it, TSA Pre✓™. Mostly it was just speculation from the writer: “I’m anticipating an expedited stroll through a special security checkpoint.” Oh honey! Well, let me tell you about that expedited stroll, as a bona fide government-approved flying person who has now strolled security more expeditiously than can be believed.

As discussed, I got on the good list a while back by having an American Airlines frequent flier number and by getting approved by Global Entry. This was really easy, although ponying up the $100 seemed like throwing five twenties in the trash. Except with like all spending, once it was gone, it was forgotten.

And here’s how it went down.

The Approach

So you know how there’s those people who sort you into security lines? But mostly their job is to make sure you’re not being a carry-on pig? (That is a rough job, I feel for them… mostly.) They probably got like one training blast about how to identify people for the PreCheck lane, and they’re not… all there. So once you’re Government-Approved, you have to stroll up, show them your boarding pass, show them the sticker on the back of your passport and say “I’m here for the PreCheck line.” Even then, sometimes that won’t totally work. (Recently they just sent me to the First Class (gross, but awesome) line, which, okay fine, I’ll take it, but.)

The Entry

So then, whichever line you get shunted into, which might be the dedicated PreCheck line or might be some other line, after of course cramming your secret second carry-on into your real carry-on, the real ID screener-type person will likely identify you and shunt you into the PreCheck line if you’re not already. (If, like, it’s actually open, and if you’re really barcoded onto the list, and if it isn’t TSA lunch break time, or a number of other random factors.)

So they’ll shove you past all the other annoyed people (THAT PART IS REALLY GREAT — sorry, it’s just sick but innate human and/or animal nature to want to be ushered past the velvet rope) and some very lonely TSA people assigned to the PreCheck line will be overly happy to see you, because they have pretty much nothing to do.

This is how it went down at JFK the other week:

TSA: “Have you ever done this before?”

Me: “Oh my God no but I’m so stoked!”

TSA: “Ohhhhkay, so, you can leave all liquids and laptops in your luggage, just place your bags on the belt. Leave your shoes on, take your wallet and stuff out of your pockets and also run them through the machine.”

Me: “Oh my God, oh my God.” (I’m even more inane than usual in stressful situations.)

Then they wave you through the metal detector, which you will then set off, because you have like a janitor’s worth of keys on your belt and a lighter in your pocket, and everyone will look at you like you’re stupid. Then you dump those to go through the machine, and you go back through the metal detector and then they’re like “Great, peace out.” Literally: this takes 10 seconds now. And you’re not holding up your baggy beltless pants.

But then you realize it’s like an hour until boarding time and you could have been using all this time to smoke.

When this system works, it’s incredible. It’s like riding the Matterhorn: I can’t wait to go again next week. It also introduces a fresh element of gamification (LOL/UGH) to getting to your plane, in addition to all the other airplane games like “Will I get upgraded” and “Will I manage to switch seats away from someone loud and awful?” such as: will the line even be running? Can I navigate the gauntlet of functionaries to get to the right line? And then: can I successfully get through the PreCheck line without looking back at the faces of all the disgruntled people taking off their shoes?

So. All told? I GIVE TSA PRECHECK AN A+++ IN AWESOMENESS. Though I also give it a D- in “Constitutional and Human Fairness Issues.”