Getting through airport security can be a time-consuming and frustrating ordeal, especially when traveling during the busy holiday season.
Thankfully, a variety of programs and passes allow travelers to speed up their airport security screening via dedicated entry lanes and the ability to avoid removing items like shoes, liquids, jackets, and belts. Here, a list of the options available, from subscriptions to one-time passes.
More than 2.5 million people are currently signed up with Clear, a company that utilizes biometrics to allow travelers to quickly identify themselves at airports with fingerprints and eye scans.
As a member of Clear, which is available in 40 locations across the U.S., travelers will be able to move through a dedicated Clear lane to skip through security lines. Thanks to Clear’s identification technology, travelers also get to skip the lengthy ID check lines. A Clear membership costs $179 a year ($15 a month).
Most U.S. airlines allow their mid-tier and higher elite members to access expedited security screening lanes at participating airports. The perk can sometimes also extend to companions traveling with an elite member, so be sure to check with your airline to see if this applies so that you and your travel buddy can both speed through security.
American Airlines: Priority privileges including priority check-in, security screening, and boarding are offered to AAdvantage members (Executive Platinum, Platinum Pro, Platinum, and Gold), AirPass travelers, oneworld members (Emerald, Sapphire, and Ruby), AAdvantage Citi Executive card holders, and passengers flying in first, business, and premium economy.
Economy passengers who do not fall under the specified categories above can purchase priority access. Prices vary depending on the itinerary.
Delta Air Lines: Sky Priority members have access to expedited check-in, security, boarding, and baggage. Sky Priority is available for Diamond, Platinum, and Gold Medallion members, as well as passengers with flights booked on Delta One, first class, or business class, and members of SkyTeam Elite Plus, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Gold, and Virgin Australia Velocity Platinum and Gold.
United Airlines: Premier Access perks apply to MileagePlus Premier members (Premiere 1K, Premiere Platinum, Premiere Gold, and Premiere Silver), Star Alliance Gold members, MileagePlus Club and Presidential Plus credit card members, and travelers with business and first class tickets.
Passengers not in these categories can also purchase Premiere Access for their flight at airports where the feature is available starting at $15.
Southwest Airlines: Fly by priority lane, which allows for quicker access to the front of the ticket counter and expedited service through security lines in select cities, is available for Rapid Rewards members (A-List and A-List Preferred), and for customers flying on business select.
JetBlue: JetBlue’s Even More Speed lets passengers enter expedited lanes to get through airport security, and is automatically available for TrueBlue Mosaic and JetBlue Mint customers. Travelers also have the option to purchase Even More Speed in the “extras” section when booking flights or checking in for $15, or as a bundle with an Even More Space seat (prices vary by route).
Alaska Airlines: Alaska Airlines offers expedited security access for MVP Gold and 75K Mileage Plan members, as well as American AAdvantage Platinum and Executive Platinum members, and passengers traveling in first class.
TSA PreCheck provides a speedier airport security process by providing a separate security screening lane for TSA-approved passengers. With TSA PreCheck, passengers can keep their shoes, belts, laptops, and light jackets on, and are not required to remove liquids from carry-on baggage.
According to TSA representatives, signing up with the program can mean an average wait time of less than five minutes when going through airport security screenings. The service is available across 200 airports in the U.S. and 56 airlines participate.
The service is available for travel when departing from a U.S. airport to a foreign country and for domestic flights. A five-year membership costs $85. Several credit cards and loyalty programs also cover the cost of signing up for TSA PreCheck.
Global Entry helps speed up the travel process when headed to international destinations, as the U.S. Customs and Border Protection program allows pre-cleared travelers to skip the customs line and head straight to automatic kiosks to get a customs declaration.
Global Entry members can use automatic kiosks available at participating airports to scan their passport or permanent resident card and place their fingerprint on the scanner to verify their identity and complete their customs declaration. Kiosks print a transaction receipt so they can head straight to baggage claim.
The program costs $100 for five years, though credit cards like the American Express Platinum Card will offer a rebate to customers who use the card for the application fee.
Mobile Passport Control gives travelers a faster way to get their declaration forms across 24 airports in the U.S and is the first app to be authorized by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
With the free app, U.S. and Canadian passport holders can create a profile containing their passport information along with a selfie and answers to a series of CBP inspection-related questions. They'll then receive a QR code that customs officers can scan with their passport. Unlike Global Entry, use of the app does not require a formal interview or fees, and while it does not let you skip lines completely, it does speed up the process.
Several apps will also let you check the length of security lines before you arrive at the airport, so you can plan ahead.
These include TripIt, which monitors airport security line wait times in real-time down to exactly how many minutes it will take to get to each gate. The feature is available to TripIt Pro users for $49 a year.
MiFlight is a free app that monitors airport security wait times based on social sharing. Crowd-sourced updates are available for over 100 airports, and terminal maps help navigate through the airport after security.
The TSA also runs an app called My TSA, which provides estimated wait times and answers travelers' questions about airport security, from which items can be carried on to which airports and airlines support TSA PreCheck.
Travelers looking to skip airport security lines completely can do so with Surf Air. The California-based service allows members to take unlimited flights for a fixed rate of $1,950 per month, or to pay an annual fee of $2,500 to take flights on private jets for a flat rate of $445.
The airline lets travelers book private travel at a lower cost by offering schedule-based services, with only eight people per plane. When flying with Surf Air, passengers simply need to arrive at private airports 15 minutes before their departure. Once at the airport, they can simply grab a complimentary snack or drink and walk directly onto their plane, as Surf Air checks members against TSA’s No Fly list and conducts security screenings on its members to avoid having to go through this process each time they're at the airport.