Pay your way out of TSA routine

Richard N. Velotta

Richard N. Velotta

Take off those shoes, belts and jackets. Get that laptop out of your travel bag. Empty your pockets. And be sure to put your deodorant and toothpaste on public display in a quart-sized plastic bag.

It’s travel time, and the only way you’re going to get on your flight is to perform the lengthy security checkpoint ritual most to which of us have become accustomed.

But maybe, just maybe, you won’t have to remove your belt and shoes the next time you fly. Better yet, the privilege of privacy might not cost you a penny.

The Transportation Security Administration, the agency tasked with keeping McCarran International Airport safe, double checks travelers who flunk security tests and randomly chooses passengers for pat-down searches. McCarran has one of the largest TSA checkpoints in the country.

But you now may be spared the search when you fly Southwest, American, Delta, United, US Airways, Virgin America, Alaska or Hawaiian airlines. TSA officers could select you for a much better option: TSA Pre-Check. That’s the agency’s expedited screening program for trusted travelers.

Frequent fliers can sign up to be Pre-Check eligible at a Universal Enrollment Services office at 2080 E. Flamingo Road, Las Vegas. It costs $85, and the designation is good for five years. Customers buy the right to use a special line at the TSA checkpoint in which they don’t have to remove their shoes, belts or jackets, take out their laptops or bag their toiletries. TSA agents conduct background checks on enrollees when they sign up.

The TSA recently expanded Pre-Check at McCarran, and it’s now possible to also be selected for expedited service without enrolling. The agency chooses passengers on random flights for special no-check lines. Chosen fliers will see “TSA PRE” or “TSA PRECHK” printed in the top right corner of their boarding passes.

Selection is based on passengers’ travel history. TSA agents use a formula to determine who is safe to pass with minimal scrutiny.

There is a catch. Travelers still could be chosen to undergo additional screening. But chances are, they won’t be.

TSA officials say Pre-Check allows officers to spend less time with trusted travelers and more time with passengers they’ve never screened. And they can suffer those probing looks and cold tile floors.

Tags: Opinion, Business