The TSA: How $85 Might Minimize Pre-Flight Touching

Would you pay 85 bucks for a few more shreds of dignity? We all remember hearing about the TSA pat-downs and full-body scanners in the past few years – the scanners that provided naked images of airline passengers were so badly protested that the TSA finally did away with them this May, in favor of ‘generic images’ of the human body. Nobody wants to feel unsafe on an airplane, but nobody wants to feel physically violated and uncomfortable before boarding, either.

Here’s where your money comes into play – the TSA has created a ‘trusted travelers’ program called TSA PreCheck. By enrolling in the program, you’re not forced to remove your shoes, jackets, and belts before traveling. While you still might get frisked during a random search (or if you’re looking a little suspicious that day), your chances of being left alone and getting through in a speedy manner are much better. Another perk is that you don’t have to remove your laptop and electronics, or your airline-approved liquids, from your carry-on luggage.

Here’s how it works: Along with your check for $85, you’ll need to fill out an application, provide a valid form of identification, and get fingerprinted at one of the TSA’s PreCheck enrollment centers. After two to three weeks, approved flyers will receive a confirmation letter that includes their ‘Known Traveler Number’, which they’ll have to use when booking travel. Membership to the program lasts for five years.

The TSA PreCheck is currently available at 40 airports nationwide, but will be more widespread in the fall. The first airports that’ll see changes for the mass public will be Washington Dulles International and Indianapolis International, but they expect it to branch to other airports within a short time.. While this isn’t a new concept for them (frequent flyers who weren’t hurting for cash and flew on specific airlines have had the privilege for awhile), they’re expecting about 3 million people to enroll by the end of 2013.

This brings up a lot of questions – while nobody enjoys the intrusive pat-downs or having to take their shoes off in public, will these speedy procedures compromise security? Why was something so necessary not too long ago optional for less than a hundred dollars?

Personally, I’m not much of a flyer – and while I was fearing the rumored “groping” and body scans during my honeymoon to the West Coast last year, it wasn’t a big deal when all was said and done. In fact, it was a good feeling knowing that the airlines were taking all of the proper precautions to keep their passengers as safe as possible. (And honestly, I wasn’t too worried about employees looking at any “naked” photos of me the wrong way – I mean, sure. It’s great to get free food at McDonalds when you work there, but I’m sure it’s the last thing you care about a week into the job.) (Also – how sexy is an airport body scan, really?)

However, I average maybe one flight every five years, if that. I enjoy being as close to land as possible. I can’t imagine how tiresome the lines and procedures could be if you’re required to fly weekly for work. So, those individuals might not necessarily see these changes as just being a massive payoff to the TSA – as of now, it’s estimated that they’ll gain about $255 million from the program by the end of this year.

What’s your opinion on the new program? Do you think that by the TSA ensuring that random searches will still take place amongst PreCheck members, our in-flight security is still in check? If you fly a lot, will you consider joining the program?

Image Credit: Carolina K. Smith MD / (featured)

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