Travelers can pay to avoid airport security checks

By Loretto J. Hulse, Tri-City HeraldApril 9, 2014 

Airport Security

Passengers move through security at the Tri-Cities Airport in a file photo from 2009.

KAI-HUEI YAU — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

There's good news for travelers tired of stripping off jackets, belts and shoes to trudge through airport security checkpoints.

For an $85 fee, you can apply for a Known Traveler Number that allows you to bypass most of the security checks at some airports.

You have to pass a background check by the Transportation Security Administration, and you still have to go through metal detectors.

The Seattle-Tacoma and Spokane airports have special lanes dedicated to the program, called TSA PreCheck. But you can't use the number at the Tri-Cities Airport -- at least not yet.

"We do not have a separate lane for people with TSA PreCheck approval," said Ron Foraker, airport director in Pasco.

"I expect as we expand (the airport terminal) and have more capacity TSA may add a separate lane. But I've not had that conversation with TSA yet," Foraker said.

You can apply for TSA PreCheck privileges at Lourdes Occupational Health Center, 9915 Sandifur Parkway (at the corner of Sandifur Parkway and Road 100), in Pasco.

If you begin the enrollment process online at https://universalenroll.dhs.gov it will cut down on the amount of time you spend at the health center. Normally the in-person application process takes 15 minutes or less, but there can be a wait depending how many are in line ahead of you.

The in-person visit is required so applicants can verify their citizenship or immigration status and be fingerprinted. You'll need a passport or birth certificate and valid photo identification, such as a driver's license.

Three of the health center's staff are also TSA agents working under the direction of their Lourdes supervisor, Cynthia Gomez-Hodges.

The three are able to accept the paperwork and pass it along to a TSA office for processing.

"We don't do background checks and we don't do security at the airport," said Laura Hernandez, one of the three who wear two hats at the health center.

About 30 to 50 people a day visit the health center to apply for the TSA PreCheck benefit, including travelers from Idaho, Montana and Oregon.

"This is the closest site for people living in those states this side of Wyoming," Gomez-Hodges said. "It doesn't matter where you live, you can apply at any of the sites."

TSA PreCheck also has a toll-free help desk line at 855-347-8371, available 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. You can also use this number to make an appointment.

The health center accepts only cashiers checks, money orders and debit or credit cards as payment for the $85 application fee, which is nonrefundable. Cash and personal checks aren't accepted.

The health center is open from 10 a.m. to noon and from 1-4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. It's closed on major holidays.

Once the application is approved, you'll receive your unique number in a letter in the mail within three weeks. Or, check your status online after seven business days.

The number is valid for five years.

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