It’s a given that travelers will have to stand in lines sometimes, but there are programs and apps that can speed up the process of clearing airport security. Some are free and some come with a cost, but the time and cost can be worth it to avoid the hassle of long lines and long waits.
Global Entry is a program from U.S. Customs and Boarder Protection to let travelers expedite their clearance when they arrive in the U.S. Program members can enter through kiosks rather than standing in line at U.S. Customs. Travelers must be pre-approved which involves a background check and interview, and the airport must be one which participates in the program. A five-year membership in the program costs $100.
TSA PreCheck lets approved passengers enter through a separate security screening lane. Travelers are not required to remove liquids from their carry-on luggage and can keep on their shoes, belts, and jackets. PreCheck is available for domestic and international flights from the U.S. from 200 U.S. airports. Travelers submit an application, then complete an interview and background check. Membership costs $85 for five years.
Mid-tier and higher elite memberships from U.S. airlines allow expedited security screening at participating airports. Sometimes traveling companions can also be included in this service when traveling with an elite member. Check with airlines to see what perks they offer.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Mobile Passport app can help expedite the customs process. Download the app and create an account. Upon arriving in the U.S., the app will take the user through a series of questions. Once the questions are submitted, the user receives a bar code which allows them access to a Mobile Passport dedicated customs line. The Mobile Passport program is only available at 26 airports. The app is free to download.
Planning ahead can be made easier with apps which let travelers check the length of lines at airport security. The TSA publishes wait times but doesn’t update the data frequently. TripIt monitors wait times at security lines in real time through sensors at security checkpoints which send data to the app. MiFlight uses crowd-sourcing to provide updates on airport security waiting times. Data is available for 100 airports. The TSA provides an app called My TSA which provides estimated wait times plus answers to frequently asked questions about airport security.
With a little planning and preparation, savvy travelers can minimize or even avoid the time spent waiting in airport security lines.