Should You Sign Up for the TSA’s New Expedited Security Reservations?
And where does it fit in with PreCheck and Clear?
There are virtually no aspects of travel that have gone untouched by the pandemic. Chief among them: TSA checkpoint lines.
But now you don’t need TSA PreCheck or Clear to bypass the lines. That’s because — according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal — several major airports, including Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth, Newark and Seattle (the latter of which has already moved to make it permanent) are piloting a new program which will allow travelers to schedule an appointment to pass through security … and it’s totally free.
While the program differs slightly from airport to airport, the idea is generally this: passengers can sign up for 15-minute security appointments up to 72 hours of departure. Upon arrival, passengers are required to show a QR code, which acts as proof of the appointment, and then directed to a designated lane that takes them to the front of the security line.
Per Dave Wilson, the director of airport innovation at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, it’s the first significant change to be implemented to the security-checkpoint process since Clear and TSA PreCheck. More than 264,000 passengers reportedly utilized Seattle’s Spot Saver reservation system while it was being piloted, and the corresponding surveys showed that more than 95% thought it was both user friendly and ultimately a time saver, which bodes well for plans to expand into other airports.
Now, to be clear, said designated line is separate from that of the TSA PreCheck and Clear lines, but it does function similarly. And unlike PreCheck and Clear, it’s aimed at passengers who don’t travel as often and thus aren’t inclined to spend the money on the other programs. That said, the point of all three is to expedite the security process, and if one succeeds in doing that for free, why bother paying for one of the other two? Particularly because it stands to reason that in a bigger airport — like, for argument’s sake, JFK — where TSA PreCheck lines sometimes err long, it might behoove passengers to make an appointment instead.
But I wouldn’t jump ship your PreCheck or Clear just yet, if for no other reason than the fact that they’re still more prevalent. While a TSA spokeswoman told The Wall Street Journal that they’re currently working on expanding the new initiative, there are just a handful of airports piloting it at present. Alternatively, Clear is available at 30 airports across the U.S. and PreCheck at 200. And even though the new program is free, it still subjects passengers to the full security experience. Clear, which is offered through a private company and costs $179 per year, expedites the document screening/identification process, while PreCheck, which is offered through the government and costs $85 for five years, expedites the physical screening process.
Quite frankly, I’m happy to pay $85 exclusively to not have to take my shoes in the airport. In that regard, and in my opinion, PreCheck continues to rein supreme.
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