Showing posts with label TSA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label TSA. Show all posts

Sunday, July 8, 2012

TSA ‘Trusted Travelers’ . . . maybe yes, . . .maybe no

It seemed appropriate to board a plane displaying Disney’s Goofy and Mickey Mouse after our first experience with TSA’s PreCheck ‘Trusted Travelers’ program at SeaTac Airport.

Arizona2012pt1 008

Weeks ago I told you about our application, fee payment and screening (both on paper and in person) and our ultimate acceptance into the United State’s international travelers’ Global Entry program. Global Entry participants automatically qualify for TSA’s Precheck, and its ‘trusted travelers’ faster security lanes (which had just opened at SeaTac when I wrote about the programs).

In fact, our recent introduction to ‘fast track’ on our Alaska Airlines flight to Arizona was so “Goofy"  that I wasn’t even going to tell you about it.  I figured somehow we – or Alaska – had goofed up.
Welcome to “Trusted Traveler”

I was the only passenger using the  fast track lane being manned by three TSA agents (who watched me closely) as I sailed through – wearing jacket and shoes, with computer and the quart-sized plastic bag of liquids tucked in the carryon. It went through the x-ray machine, I walked through the metal detector.  One minute max.

Joel, on the other hand, was sent to the slow – take-off-shoes-coats-belt-empty-pockets line – because the TSA agent said his ‘trusted traveler’ number didn’t appear in the boarding pass bar code.  He couldn’t ‘fast track’.  Twenty minutes later after his lane snaked its way through the screening we were off to the gate.

"We must have done something wrong. . ."

Agreeing that we’d done something wrong, Joel talked with Alaska mileage plan representatives who offered some possible reasons that the number which shows clearly on his computer profile didn’t print. Seemed odd, since mine did.

 Mystery solved

It was recent media articles that cleared up the mystery for us.  It wasn’t us.  Others in the program are having the same experiences and what’s more. . .

Arizona2012pt1 008It is supposed to work that way!

You see a  ‘trusted traveler’ really isn’t trusted – not all the time, anyway.

We’d been told there’s always a chance of ‘random and unpredictable security measures’.  And what that means is that a certain number of ‘trusted’ travelers don’t know until their boarding pass is scanned whether they will be allowed to use the ‘fast track’ line or not. 

Good for security but bad for streamlining that process when one of a traveling duo is ‘trusted’ and the other one is not.

Now we read in  the Seattle Times that the TSA is expanding its ‘trusted traveler’ program at SeaTac to allow participation by passengers of other airlines (those who’ve passed the additional background and security screens, that is).

We’ll keep you posted on our future ‘trusted traveler’experiences, but for now taking a road trip in our car, riding an Amtrak train or sailing across Puget Sound on a ferry sounds mighty inviting!

Note:  The TSA PreCheck is a pilot program being tested among a small number of airports and travelers.  By the end of the year it is scheduled to be operating at 35 U.S. airports and involve passengers of six airlines. If you want more information about eligibility and participation visit: and for Global Entry

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Global Entry and Pre Check: Ready, Set, Go!

DSCF2425Remember me? I’m the one on whom ‘explosives [were] detected’ during a random check at SeaTac Airport in January.

It was my hand lotion’s glycerin, we think. I now fly high, but dry!

And remember us being held in that ‘secure area’ of Iceland’s Airport after I passed with flying colors the the ‘random security check’ for which, by lucky draw, I’d been selected?

We weren’t alone; nearly three dozen other bewildered passengers bound for the U.S. were not ‘allowed to mingle’ until the plane boarded.

With both those experiences fresh in mind, I was a bit hesitant to apply for the U. S. Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry Program, for international traveler; the one that, in turn, qualifies participants for the T.S.A.’s PreCheck, domestic trusted travelers program.

 ‘Trusted Traveler’  programs

Global Entry is a program that requires completion of an extensive on-line application and payment of $100 application fee. If, following a background check, conditional approval is given, then an in-person interview at a local CBP office is conducted. Fingerprints are taken and processed and photos taken during that interview.

If approved, you use a kiosk when re-entering the United States, rather than waiting in those long lines to get the passport stamped and go through Customs inspection.

PreCheck allows approved passengers, whose backgrounds have been checked, or those in Global Entry, to use check-in security lanes that no longer require removing shoes, belts or jackets and allows leaving laptops and liquids in the bags. Instead of the controversial x-ray machine, travelers walk through a metal detector (like the early days of security).

Pre-Check is being introduced by a select number of airlines, including Alaska Air, the one we regularly fly. A select number of airports are participating in this early stages of the program and many more are slated to participate.

Our story

DSCF1003We completed the application form in early March, paid our fee and waited. By the end of March we’d  received notice of ‘conditional approval’ and set up in-person interviews with CBP officials. In our case, the closest office was at SeaTac Airport. 

In early April we were interviewed; each asked a series of questions, were finger-printed and had photos taken that would appear on an identification card we’d be issued if approved.

The finger prints were apparently ‘run’ while we were there as approval was given to each of us before the meeting was over. We were taught how to use the kiosk. Our ID cards arrived two weeks later.

Does it work?

washington wednesdays 005We used the Global Entry kiosk at San Francisco’s airport when we returned from Mexico. It was a snap – no lines, no wait time. In and done.

We’ll experience PreCheck at SeaTac next week when we head to Phoenix.  For the first time in many years I am looking forward to  check-in.

A Note to Naysayers

There’s been a  lot of critical comments added at the end of on-line media articles about this program. Critics call it a program for the ‘elite’ who can pay for a speedy security experience.  The cost, was $100, good for five years. That’s $20 a year. If you can afford to buy the ticket and other trip costs you likely can shell out an additional $20 a year for ease of check-in.
Some claimed the streamlined check in security isn’t thorough enough.  I can tell you that based on the questionnaire and interviews, our government knows far more about Joel and me now than they did when simply examining our bare feet in the airport x-ray machine. 

The program guidelines also make it clear:  random security checks will be done in this new speedy program just as is done in all check in lines. 

Sigh. We know my luck in being drawn for those random selections. . .

Note:  I’ve included links above that take you to the Global Entry and TSA PreCheck sites if you want to know more about either of these programs.  Are you already participating? Leave a comment and let us know how it is working.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

‘EXPLOSIVES DETECTED’ . . . sadly, on me!

And as soon as those two words in bold black letters on a bright orange background showed up on the screen, the TSA agent at SeaTac said, “Afraid you are going to have to come with me, ma’am.”

And thus began our 2012 travels . . .

vegas 020 We were on our way to Las Vegas yesterday, our annual trip to watch college football games on big screen televisions in Sports Books found in nearly every casino in town when it all began. I wrote about our similar trip last year and had planned not to even mention this trip That was until Lady Luck – or Lady Un-luck – struck before I’d even left Seattle.

“Why is it always you?” I heard Joel ask from behind me.

I’ve thought about that since yesterday and here’s my answer:  it is because I am generally a happy traveler (I smiled at the guy) and short (5-feet tall) and blonde (although chemically-induced blonde, I could have the traits of a real blonde) and I am over 50; all of which I think adds up to: I am an easy mark.

Back to my tale .  . .

We were in the line snaking its way to the TSA bag, body and document screening when I smiled at the agent, he smiled back and said, “Ma’am I need you to step over here – I am doing a random swab of hands.”  He swiped, put the cotton pads in the machine and I joked (yes, up until yesterday, I still chatted with these folks) about detecting the type of hand lotion I used.

EXPLOSIVES DETECTED flashed on the screen and that was the end of that conversation. . .

On the bright side, he led us right to the front of the line (hopefully people thought we were celebrities or something) and helped put all of our stuff through the screening. After we both cleared the body x-ray (now standard screening at SeaTac) Joel went off to wait for me while I was led to more screening. 

Everything I had, plastic baggie, coat, shoes, purse and contents were individually wiped down and tested. They all passed with flying colors. . .No explosives!

Then two female TSA agents arrived and took me into a room and closed the door for my ‘pat down’.  Now I can’t say I was real happy at that point, BUT I do need to say the exam was explained to me in advance: and done in an extremely professional manner.

 (“I will be using a backhand pat down everywhere but the inner thigh and there I will need to used the front of my hands to pat down,” she said.) 

They checked my hair (“I am trying not to mess it up,” she explained) and then did the pat down. 

The second woman took the gloves she had been wearing and tested them for residue.

vegas 044 Again, I passed with flying colors. . .I was free to go.  And on the bright side, we didn’t have to wait long at all to board our flight.

As I left I told them I was a white-knuckle flier and I really did appreciate the security efforts. (They told me most people react much differently.)

The afterward of this tale is that we are in Las Vegas, the sun is out, we are barefoot in our sandals, the two teams we wanted to win games did so yesterday we were upgraded to a room with sweeping views over the valley and mountains and all is again well in our travel world. 

However, we might just allow ourselves a little extra time at the airport prior to our return flight -  just in case Lady Luck strikes again!


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