Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport travelers may face fewer travel nuisances like pulling off their shoes and unbuckling their belts if they qualify for the Transportation Security Administration’s pre-check program new to the city’s airport.
The Baton Rouge airport is the second in the state, along with New Orleans, and one of about 150 nationwide to offer expedited pre-check lines for travelers. U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who don’t have a criminal record may qualify for the program if they pay $85 for background checks and fingerprinting and their applications are approved.
Having a pre-check stamp on their boarding passes means travelers will move through lines more quickly when they fly on the 11 participating airlines, which include Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways, American Airlines, JetBlue Airways and more. Pre-checked passengers can keep their shoes, belts and jackets on when they go through security, and they do not need to remove their laptops from their cases nor their liquids from their carry-ons.
“This actually strengthens security because it allows us to spend even more time with passengers we know little about,” TSA spokeswoman Sari Koshetz said.
About 3,000 people in Baton Rouge and more than 10,000 people across the state have signed up for pre-check, according to the TSA. At the Baton Rouge airport on Monday morning, a green arrow directed travelers going through security to a quicker pre-check line, and a yellow arrow directed the others toward “general boarding.”
“We have a lot of business travelers who fly every week, and being able to go through and not remove your shoes or your laptop or your liquids … is a great benefit when you fly that frequently,” airport spokesman Jim Caldwell said.
It takes about two weeks after a traveler submits an application to hear if it’s approved, according to Koshetz.
Military members are automatically eligible for pre-check with their Department of Defense ID number, which doubles as their known traveler number. Military members do not have to pay a fee to qualify, she said.
Pre-check applications will be rejected if the people applying have certain criminal offenses on their records or if they are on terrorist or Interpol watch lists. Among the disqualifying criminal offenses are espionage, treason, murder, unlawful use or sale of an explosive device, extortion, arson, rape, robbery and more.
Pre-checks also can be revoked or suspended if travelers are arrested for any of the criminal offenses once their pre-checks have cleared or if they try to bring guns through airport security, according to Koshetz.
Koshetz said potential pre-check applicants should check the TSA’s website, which lists disqualifying criminal offenses, before paying the non-refundable $85 for their application.
Those who do not go through the pre-check application process may still see a pre-check sign added to their boarding passes on a flight-by-flight basis.
Koshetz said potential travelers are checked through the TSA’s Secure Flight program when they book a flight. Secure Flight checks travelers’ names and their information with watch lists and no-fly lists before passengers are issued boarding passes. If Secure Flight deems passengers low risk when they book their tickets, they may qualify for pre-checks for those specific flights.
Koshetz said it’s also possible that passengers who do not have pre-checks on their boarding passes could be directed to the pre-check lines while they are waiting based on real-time threat assessment. She said TSA agents and canines are trained to track threatening behaviors, and travelers not exhibiting those might be invited to the pre-check line.
The only way to ensure a flight pre-check for the next five years is by applying for the program and being accepted, Koshetz said. After five years, travelers will have to re-apply for the program.
Anyone who wants to apply for pre-check can do so at the IdentoGO center at 4305 Bluebonnet Blvd. They’ll need to bring valid identification and citizenship/immigration documentation.