Wichita Mid-Continent Airport has joined nearly 100 other airports across the nation offering Pre-check, a program that lets some passengers go through security screening in a shorter line with a lighter search.
The new screening lane went into operation last week.
Right now, it’s limited to passengers who are members of an airline’s frequent-flier program and selected by their airline for participation, members of an international trusted travelers program and a few randomly selected passengers, said Keith Osborn, security director for the Transportation Security Administration in Wichita.
Osborn said others will be able to apply for the program through a TSA Web page expected to launch later this year.
That process will involve an online application, criminal background check, fingerprinting and an interview with a TSA investigator, he said. The cost will be a nonrefundable $85 fee covering five years of Pre-check access, he said.
In addition to standing in a shorter line, Pre-check passengers will not be required to remove their shoes or belts and won’t have to take laptops or liquids out of their carry-on baggage, streamlining the screening process, he said.
While relatively few Wichita passengers qualify now, the future Web page “will make it easier for other folks in the community to enroll,” Osborn said.
Although access will remain relatively exclusive, the program should shorten lines for ordinary passengers because the Pre-check passengers will be removed from the regular traffic flow of security screening, Osborn said.
At present, most of the Wichita passengers using the special line are members of the frequent-flier programs of American, United and Delta airlines. Southwest Airlines is expected to join the program soon, Osborn said.
Each participating airline decides who among its frequent fliers will be sent an application for the Pre-check program, Osborn said.
“Those folks are delighted and look for it,” he said.
Indeed they are and do.
“I think it’s a great idea because I’m a frequent flier,” said Gordon Ens, as he waited in the Pre-check line. Ens said he works for Creative Clinical Concepts in Andover and travels by air about twice a month, so he appreciates the more convenient process.
And folks in the regular screening line didn’t seem to mind the change.
“I’m not a frequent flier,” said Noreen Templin of Wichita. “I can see how it would be very beneficial if you fly a lot.”
Bjorn Ollendike of Dallas said he could have gone through the Pre-check line but decided to use the regular one because he wanted to stay with his friend and traveling companion, Jeffrey Thorman of Hamburg, Germany.
But when he travels alone, “I use it all the time,” he said, adding that he was pleased to see the program branching out from bigger airports to smaller ones like Wichita.
Ollendike was in Wichita this week for an aviation conference.
Passengers who are not offered the program though their airline can get Pre-check privileges if they join the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Department’s Trusted Traveler program. That’s geared to international travelers, but anyone with a passport can apply, even if they don’t travel to other countries, Osborn said.
Those who wish to join that program, also known as Global Entry, can apply and pay the nonrefundable $100 fee at www.globalentry.gov.
Osborn said some passengers who aren’t enrolled in Pre-check or Global Entry are randomly selected for a one-time use of the lighter screening process when they check in with their airline.
They’ll likely still have to wait in the regular screening line because they won’t necessarily know they’ve been selected until their boarding pass is scanned at the entry to the screening area, he said.
But they will be allowed to go through the expedited screening process at the checkpoint, he said.