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TSA PreCheck allows teens to join parents in faster security line

Youths ages 13 to 17 can accompany parents or guardians in the trusted traveler line at airport security

Passengers enter a TSA PreCheck area before going through security at Orlando International Airport in 2018. (John Raoux/AP)
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Just in time for the official kickoff to the summer travel season, the Transportation Security Administration announced that passengers ages 13 to 17 can accompany their parents or guardians in the PreCheck line, as long as the family members are traveling with the same reservation. With PreCheck, travelers can wear their shoes, belts and light jackets through the security checkpoint and can leave their laptops and appropriately sized liquids in their carry-on.

Previously, only children 12 and younger could tag along with their adult travel companions in the trusted traveler lane. The expansion allows families to keep their group intact during the airport screening process.

“This basically covers all minors that are traveling with a parent or guardian in PreCheck,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said Monday at a summer preview event at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Children traveling with preapproved parents or guardians can begin using the program immediately, and they don’t need to enroll on their own. The adult family member must attach their “known traveler number” (KTN) to their frequent-flier account or to the booking reservation. Adults cannot piggyback on their spouse’s membership, nor can children traveling alone use the PreCheck lane without their own membership.

“The children are on the same reservation and so there is no KTN for the children,” said Lisa Farbstein, a TSA spokeswoman. “It will automatically recognize that the children are traveling with their parent or guardian on the same reservation and they’ll be allowed through the TSA PreCheck lane.”

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All boarding passes — electronic or paper — must feature the PreCheck symbol. If you don’t see it, go back into the reservation and add the number or, at the airport, ask an airline agent for assistance.

TSA is expecting a wildly busy summer of travel. Daily passenger numbers have been consistently exceeding 2 million and even breaching 2.5 million, such as on Sunday. For the Memorial Day holiday weekend, Pekoske said, he expects TSA will screen about 2.6 million people a day, or about 10 million total. He said Thursday, Friday and Monday will be the busiest days.

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AAA is forecasting an equally slammed long weekend. The association predicts that 42.3 million people will travel at least 50 miles from home, a 7 percent increase from last year’s tally. Of those, about 3.4 million folks will fly, surpassing pre-pandemic numbers.

“We have fully recovered in aviation,” Pekoske said.

Farbstein warns travelers to avoid two common mistakes with PreCheck. Travelers often transpose the numbers when typing them into the system, so review the string of digits before submitting the reservation. Also, make sure that you are using your KTN and not your companion’s.

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PreCheck, which was launched in December 2013, has ballooned to more than 15 million active members. The process takes about five minutes to fill out the application, plus 10 minutes for the in-person appointment. After the interview, Farbstein said applicants should receive their KTN in 3 to 5 days.

Over the years, TSA has made the program more affordable and convenient. Last November, it lowered the enrollment fee from $85 to $78. In September 2021, it dropped the online renewal price from $85 to $70. In-person renewal costs the same as the new-applicant fee. Travelers must renew every five years but can submit their renewal application up to six months before the expiration date. Some premium travel credit cards will offset the fee.

The agency has also increased the number of enrollment centers. In addition to the established venues, Farbstein said TSA frequently sets up temporary sites, such as at local AAA offices. “We have about 20 pop-ups a month for a week at a time,” she said.

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Travelers can find PreCheck lanes at more than 200 airports. More than 85 airlines have joined the program, including new participants such as Avelo, Viva Air and Eurowings.

To expedite the security process, Pekoske reminds travelers to pack “an empty bag,” in case you forgot to remove, say, the Swiss Army knife or jar of peanut butter from your last camping trip.