As Donna Yost headed through Eppley Airfield's south security checkpoint Wednesday on her way to Nashville, Tenn., the process was surprisingly hassle-free.
She left her shoes and light jacket on as she passed through the metal detector in the far right security lane with the “PreCheck” sign hanging above it.
That's because Yost was randomly selected to use the Transportation Security Administration's new PreCheck lane, now available at Eppley's south security checkpoint in Terminal A. PreCheck allows pre-approved passengers to pass through some security checkpoints without having to remove their shoes, light outerwear and belt, laptops from cases and carry-on liquids and gels from carry-on luggage.
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“It was evidently random,” Yost said, noting that her husband was not selected for PreCheck, probably because his flight reservations were booked separately. “It's great,” she added. “I hate taking my shoes off.”
The agency announced last month it would be expanding the expedited screening program to 60 new airports, including Omaha. Omaha's PreCheck lane was made available to passengers on Oct. 10.
Earlier this month, TSA began randomly selecting passengers to be eligible for PreCheck based on information they provide when making flight reservations. Previously, this was available only to frequent fliers invited by an airline or those in a federal program.
“We're getting away from that one-size-fits-all” method of security, said Paul Ross, federal security director for TSA Nebraska.
TSA said that it will always incorporate random and unpredictable security measures throughout the airport and that no individual is guaranteed expedited screening.
The PreCheck lane at Eppley is now available to passengers flying Delta, American and Alaska Airlines at the south security checkpoint. A PreCheck lane for the north security checkpoint is expected to launch in the first quarter of next year, Ross said.
Passengers who might be selected for PreCheck include:
» U.S. citizens in frequent traveler programs who are invited by participating airlines, such as Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways and Virgin America. JetBlue and Southwest are also expected to begin participating when “operationally ready,” TSA officials said. All airlines that serve Omaha, aside from Southwest, are eligible.
» U.S. citizens who are members of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Trusted Traveler program and Canadian citizens who are members of CBP's NEXUS program.
A TSA PreCheck indicator will be embedded in the bar code of the boarding pass so that, when scanned at the checkpoint, the passenger may be referred to a PreCheck security lane. Some boarding passes, like Yost's, also have a “PreCheck” indicator on them so passengers know in advance they have been cleared for expedited screening.
John Fitzgibbon of Long Island, N.Y., was leaving Omaha on Wednesday afternoon and was able to use the PreCheck lane because he was invited as a frequent flier on Delta Airlines. Fitzgibbon said he has used PreCheck lanes at other airports in the past, but this was his first time using it in Omaha.
“It's the way traveling used to be, before 9/11,” he said.
TSA later this year will launch a fee-based application program for PreCheck, allowing more U.S. citizens to enroll in the program. The process will allow citizens to apply for expedited screening without a passport by filling out an application online and verifying identity and providing fingerprints at a TSA PreCheck enrollment center, according to TSA's website.
The enrollment fee of $85 will allow for five years of eligibility. TSA expects the vetting process to take about two or three weeks. The first two enrollment locations, Washington Dulles International Airport and Indianapolis International Airport, will open this fall with plans for additional enrollment sites nationwide.