Browsing Tag: passport

A U.S. Passport - Photo: SwimParallel - (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A U.S. Passport – Photo: SwimParallel | FlickrCC

I have a dirty little secret to share. I made it around the sun 30 times before stopping to pick up a passport. For most of my adult life I could easily explain this away: “My airline doesn’t fly internationally.” Then came the May of 2011 announcement that Southwest would acquire AirTran, and as a result would become an international carrier. Fast forward a few years and AirTran had been fully integrated into Southwest, yet I was still without a magic blue book. What seemed to be my last valid excuse (aside from pure laziness) was gone. It was time to join the majority of my AvGeek brethren (and 35% of the U.S. population) in securing a passport.

BONUS: Photo Tour of Hobby’s New International Terminal

At a dinner with fellow AvGeeks, a friend of mine who recently interned with an airline in Chicago mentioned that he had applied for, and received, a same-day passport in downtown Chicago just hours before he took his first non-rev trip abroad. I was intrigued. I had discovered a way to make a task I had put off for years more interesting than filling out paperwork and sitting around for weeks waiting for a response. Not only that, I now had a completely valid excuse to board a LUV bird to jet up to Chicago for a day trip. I was fully on board for a same-day passport challenge.

The TSA PreCheck area at LAX Terminal 2.

The TSA PreCheck area at LAX Terminal 2

Let’s make one thing clear: TSA PreCheck is great. If you’ve flown anytime in the past few years, you’ve seen (or perhaps even been the beneficiaries of) the “PreCheck” lanes that some passengers use to zip past the general security lines, or even the premium lanes. Those who see others scoot all the way out of sight and/or get to keep their shoes on are envious; those who randomly received PreCheck access once are even more so.

For the low low price of $85, the Transportation Security Administration will grant a passenger the privilege of getting PreCheck most (not all) of the time. They’re in charge of keeping the flying public safe, and they’re not a for-profit institution, so we can trust them at their word, right?

NO! What they don’t tell you is that there are other ways to enroll in TSA’s PreCheck program without a) writing a check to TSA and b) paying less, or at least getting more out of what you pay.