If the airport security checkpoint agent sends you through the TSA Pre-Check lane, that means you get to leave your shoes on.
And your jacket and belt. You’ll forgo the full-body scan, too.
You’ll be told also that you may leave your laptop in your backpack – along with that quart-sized zipper bag that holds your regulation 3-ounce bottles of gels and liquids.
These small favors are accorded to 5,600 North Carolinians who have paid $85 to enroll in the Transportation Security Administration’s Pre-Check expedited screening program. They also go to untold numbers of additional travelers who are sometimes surprised – and sometimes not surprised – to discover that their boarding passes also have been stamped with the TSA Pre-Check logo.
“I’m ‘randomly’ always chosen,” Jeff Powell of Hillsborough chuckled Tuesday after he breezed through the Pre-Check lane at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, en route to New York. “I don’t know why. It’s great not taking my shoes off. It’s great not taking my laptop out.”
Candice Scheuer and her husband have enjoyed free samples of the Pre-Check treatment on a few of their recent flights. She doesn’t know why it works out this way for some trips, but not others. Now they’re ready to pay the $85 to become full-time TSA Pre-Check travelers.
They took their passports Tuesday to a North Raleigh office where a TSA contractor asked a few questions – ever been convicted of a crime? – and collected their fingerprints and application fees.
“We want to sign up to expedite the process of going through security,” said Scheuer, 66, of Raleigh. “We travel quite a bit. It will help. You don’t have to remove your shoes. It’s not as long a line. It’s a lot faster.”
About 25 percent of RDU travelers are routed through the Pre-Check lane, TSA spokeswoman Sari Koshetz told reporters at RDU Tuesday. Some have enrolled in the program, while others are identified in a secretive process called Secure Flight. All travelers are prescreened before the airlines issue their boarding passes, to identify some who won’t need the closest security at the airport.
“TSA has been moving away from a one-size-fits-all security protocol,” Koshetz said. “By placing more focus on your passengers before they get to the checkpoint, we are able to focus at the checkpoint on those we know less about. Everyone is screened and their luggage is screened, but ... we can have a more efficient process because we prescreen.”
Koshetz wouldn’t explain why travelers might get the quicker Pre-Check treatment for some trips but a more rigorous scrutiny on other trips. Powell said all travelers would appreciate the expedited screening.
“It’s a lot less hassle,” said Powell, 60. “I really think they should get rid of most of this stuff for everybody.”