Getting through airport security is taking longer than ever before. It doesn’t look like things are going to improve any time soon. Government officials, airports, and airlines suggest you arrive at the airport 3 hours before your flight in order to get through security in time for boarding. There are a few things that can help somewhat, but your best bet is TSA Precheck or Global Entry.
What is TSA Precheck? It is a government program that pre-approves you for security for flights departing from the US. You can use special, and presumably shorter, lines at airport checkpoints. You don’t have to remove your shoes, belts or light jackets. You don’t have to remove laptops and liquids from your carryon bags.
160 airports and 16 airlines in the US offer TSA Precheck. All you have to do is apply. You must finish the process at an application center to be fingerprinted and have your identification documents verified. It generally takes 2-3 weeks for the approval process. If approved, you receive notification by mail with your known traveler number, which you use when making airline reservations.
Global Entry offers the same benefits as TSA Precheck and adds the benefit of expedited processing through Customs when returning to the US.
PSA Precheck is $85 for 5 years. Global Entry is $100. Is it worth it? If you only travel once a year, you have ten flights (depart and return). Is it worth it to you to spend, at most, either $8.50 or $10 to shorten your time in line? If you fly more than once a year, what are you waiting for?
Even the best-laid plans go awry. You may have your TSA Precheck or Global Assist and arrive at the airport in plenty of time. You still may miss your flight because of some delay. Add another level of protection and buy trip insurance to protect yourself against unforeseen delays.