A passenger checks in at the new American Airlines Flagship Check-in at JFK airport.. Just as they've made first class more enjoyable with new seats, tastier meals and bigger TVs, airlines are focusing on easing the misery of airports for their highest-paying customers and giving them a truly elite experience. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer) -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Special Instruction : N/A File Size: 28KB image fitting: all visiblehorizontalverticalactual size
(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Irene e-mailed us after reading our article this week on TSA’s Pre-Check program:

“I was one of the lucky ones that United [Airlines] put Pre-Check on my boarding pass. I passed thru Dulles airport and then Denver airport like a breeze. It was wonderful! My question now is do I still have to register for Pre-Check? I tried calling TSA because I didn’t see any information online about what to do. However all I got on the phone were recordings. I never talked to a person. Can you answer my question?”

Thanks for writing, Irene!

Yes, if you want to use Pre-Check regularly you have to register for it. You won’t always be as lucky as you were on your recent trip, when you were selected through a random process that TSA began this fall. You never know if or when you’ll get selected again.

You can begin the Pre-Check registration process online (here), and then stop by the center in Dulles to finalize the application (TSA has promised that the Dulles application center will open this month).

An alternative you might want to consider is the Global Entry program, a U.S. Customs program, which is up and running at Dulles now. Its members go through the Pre-Check lines and it also provides expedited reentry into the United States after travel abroad. (It’s here.)