Go to the Head of the (Airport) Line

Airport security is a maze
TSA Precheck and Clear are two programs to expedite airport security

If you travel by air, there are several government programs that could make your journey easier with CLEAR, TSA Precheck and Global Entry. Let’s take a look at these programs to see what they are and how they can help you.

When you get to the airport, after you have checked in, you must pass through security. Security protocol involves two queues. First line is to check your identity. The second is to pass through the weapon scanners of your body and baggage. Airlines suggest you get to the airport two hours before your flight departs to allow time for the delays that may occur with these procedures.

Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport is an example of an airport that is a bit unusual because there are multiple security checkpoints for each terminal. This ameliorates the delays found at most other airports where all passengers are funneled through a single bottle-necked checkpoint.

CLEAR allows you to skip the line to check your identity. Once enrolled, the CLEAR system will recognize you by your fingerprint. You walk up to a CLEAR computer and scan your finger. Then you skip to the front of the identity line. The program costs $179 for a year with spouses costing an additional $50. CLEAR is only available at 13 U.S. airports. Whether it is worth the cost, therefore, depends on where you travel to and from.

Once your identity is checked, another program called TSA Precheck allows you to use a special line reserved for members of this program. As more people take advantage of this program, this line is getting increasingly longer. Even so, the TSA Precheck line generally runs quickly as the people enrolled in this program know the routine and generally have their luggage ready to speed through, although clueless travelers are not entirely eliminated, slowing down the line.

While most people have to take off their shoes, remove coats and take liquids and electronic devices out of their baggage before running them through the “X-ray” machine, people with TSA Precheck do not have to go through these time-consuming steps.

TSA Precheck costs $85 for five years. You submit the application online and then need to go for an interview at the airport. Only certain of the checkpoints at DFW Airport have TSA Precheck lines. So, check ahead and go to the gate closest to yours with a Precheck line.

Many people skip the TSA Precheck qualication procedure in favor of Global Entry, which includes TSA Precheck, but costs only slightly more, $100 for five years. The same basic enrollment procedure applies, but you do need a passport. If you don’t have one, the cost of the passport has to be added to the $100 fee. You still need an interview. The advantage of Global Entry is it applies to the process of re-entering the U.S. from travel abroad, not only at airports, but also at cruise terminals (not all of which have Global Entry). Special kiosks greet Global Entry participants. The kiosks already have much of your data in the system, speeding your re-entry process.

When you update your passport, you have to go to the interview office and update the Global Entry information. A separate fee is required for each person using the system. So, a spouse would have to pay a separate $100 fee.

Some credit cards will reimburse you for your Global Entry fee as a benefit of the card. If you are creditworthy and want to pay the card’s annual fee, explore this with a Google search. My favorite card costs $95 and pays for the $100 fee. Write me for details.

Use Google to find out the details about applying for each of these programs.

Don ’t want to pay for Global Entry? “There’s a free app for that!” Called Mobile Passport, it expedites getting through customs when returning to the U.S. It only works at select airports.


  1. Very informative article, it is good to know the options. My husband and I are going to get TSA Precheck.

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