After what seems like multiple lifetimes, the TSA instituted a PreCheck system at O'Hare in Terminal 3 to help screen passengers who are clearly not a risk. I had the chance to go through it last week and you know what? It was psychologically damaging, but not in that way.
For years at TSA checkpoints, I've been treated like a bad passenger and at worse, a threat to national security. Even planning ahead and packing correctly, putting my shoes in the tray and triple checking my empty pockets, I'm still periodically groped. The viewers of the "naked machine" at O'Hare have seen me nude more times than they care to remember. Don't forget the stress - absolutely horrible. Even though I get to use the elite lanes to speed up the process, I'm still poked, prodded and fingered and not in a good way.
So why was it damaging? I got to leave my laptop in my bag, and kept my shoes and jacket on and I was through in less than a minute. After 10+ years, it felt *too* easy and made me feel a bit nervous. I didn't do anything wrong and yes it was awesome to fly through security but it led to a "wait a second..." moment.
How do you get to do this? Well, first you need to be a member of one of the CBP's "Trusted Traveler" programs. They generally involve a fee starting at $50 and an interview with our lovely Customs folks. I'm a member of the NEXUS program between Canada and the US as well as Global Entry, the fast customs and immigration process. They did require finger prints, iris scans (Canada did) and a complete history of where I've been over the last 5 years. Global Entry was $100 and good for 5 years. It's saved me lots of time in airports when I've had tight connections plus you get a cute little ID that you can use. The downside is that with being fingerprinted, you can no longer live a life as a criminal mastermind unless you get one of those synthetic fingerprint things in spy movies.
You also have to be a part of an airline's frequent flier program. Right now, only TSA Precheck is for American Airlines AAdvantage members in Terminal 3. This will be opening up for United passengers in Terminals 1 and 2, along with Delta and US Airways members in T2, but at an unknown date. Finally, you have to opt-in, so the two sets of data combine.
If you're an AA passenger, I think it's worth it. Think of it this way: $20 a year for speedy security and quick passage through Customs. It's worth the less stress that it brings.
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