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(MCT)—The Transportation Security Administration will introduce PreCheck, a new prescreening program for low-risk travelers, at 28 U.S. airports this year. Below are some common questions about how the new system works, and what these changes mean.

Q: How does it work?
A: Travelers will go to a designated checkpoint where a TSA agent will scan boarding passes for a bar code indicating who has been cleared for expedited screening. Those passengers will be directed to a special lane where they likely will be allowed to keep on shoes, belts, jackets; leave laptops and liquids in carry-ons; and walk though a metal detector instead of a full-body scanner. We say “likely” because TSA still will do random extra screening, so no guarantees.

Q: Who is eligible?
A: In the initial phase, only high-mileage frequent fliers invited by certain airlines (Alaska Airlines in Seattle) and members of Nexus, Global Entry and Sentri, the expedited boarding-crossing programs run by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.

Q: Will I know in advance if I’m pre-cleared?
A: Airlines notify passengers that they’re eligible for PreCheck, but the expedited clearance is on a per-flight basis. You don’t find out until an agent scans your boarding pass at the checkpoint.

Q: What airports and airlines have PreCheck?
A: So far, TSA is testing the program with American Airlines in Chicago, Dallas, Miami, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, New York’s JFK and Los Angeles. Delta Air Lines customers can use lanes in Atlanta, Washington National, Detroit, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City and Minneapolis. TSA will add other airports as the year goes on.

Q: Is there a cost?
A: No. Nexus, Global Entry and Sentri members pay a fee to join, but nothing additional for PreCheck.

Q: What kind of personal information do I have to provide?
A: Frequent fliers submit their name, gender and birth date. Nexus, Global Entry and Sentri members supply more detailed information and submit to a personal interview, photo and digital-finger-print scan as part of the approval process for those programs.

Q: Do I have to do anything when making reservations or checking in online?
A: Nexus, Global Entry and Sentri members will be asked to enter their numbers (PASS ID) in the “Known Traveler number”field when booking reservations. The airline identifies others when its submits passenger reservation information to TSA, routine before every flight.

Q: What’s the difference among Nexus, Global Entry and Sentri?
A: Global Entry allows air travelers expedited entry into the U.S. from a foreign country.

Sentri is a similar program allowing members to use special lanes when crossing U.S./ Mexican land borders. Nexus is a joint U.S./Canadian program for land and sea border crossings and use of special lanes at Canadian airports for pre-clearance for flights from Canada to U.S.

Q: How do I join?
A: Use the Global Online Enrollment System (GOES) to apply for any of the three programs. The application process is the same, and members in any of the three are eligible for PreCheck.

Tip: The application fee for Nexus is $50 versus $100 for Global Entry and $122.25 for Sentri. Since membership in Nexus automatically makes you eligible to use both Global Entry and PreCheck, you’ll save by enrolling in Nexus.

©2012 The Seattle Times
Distributed by MCT Information Services