At a time marked by all sorts of confusing promises from both government and private enterprise, an announcement several weeks ago by the Transportation Security Administration was particuarly distressing. With a great deal of fanfare, a T.S.A. official announced that help was on hand for American travelers who disliked having virtually to disrobe (shoes and belt off, for starters) in order to pass through airport security gates. A program called "Pre-Check" would enable honest Americans to register as safe and secure passengers who would therefter pass through a special, expedited, security gate, quickly, easily and without discomfort.
This Frommers.com blog received all sorts of happy responses from avid travelers. Where do we sign up? they asked. Tell us and we'll go there right away.
The fact was that it was too early to sign up. The T.S.A., having whetted our appetites, hadn't created the several application centers at which you could appear for your security processing. Millions of people were left confused and disappointed.
Well, now they've acted--sort of. Starting immediately, persons arriving at exactly one airport, namely Indianapolis International Airport, can present themselves at an Application Center to complete the paper work and other reviews that can enable you to be a "Pre-Checked" passenger. And before the end of the year, says the T.S.A., they'll have similar centers set up at an un-designated airport in the New York City area (where there are three major airports), and in the chief airports of Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles. Eventually, says the T.S.A., such application centers will be open in a hundred major airports of the U.S.A., but how soon this will be, no one knows.
And though the website of the T.S.A. (tsa.gov) has an elaborate discussion of how you can apply for pre-check online, it then states you must go to an application center to complete the process--and names exactly one such place: Indianapolis.
So you simply have to wait, until such a facility is available at an airport near which you live. You cannot speed up the process on your own. But when you are able, at long last, to visit such a center and fullfill its various requirements, you will thereafter be able to pass through security without removing your shoes or belt, without extractong your laptop from a briefcase, without having to empty your pockets of change, without seeing your small containers of liquids confiscated.
Unless--unless, that is, you've been chosen at random by the T.S.A. to be checked and approved. T.S.A. is conducting such random tests on an undisclosed number of passengers, who sometimes find a pre-check approval printed on their boarding pass. Endowed with such luck, you then breeze through the security process.
But for the rest of us un-lucky travelers, we simply have to wait. It's been a confusing time, but eventually you will have nearby access to a place where you can undergo a T.S.A. "pre-check" and thereafter travel as in the carefree days prior to September 11.