Transportation

Sacramento airport adding TSA PreCheck office

Travelers with Approved PreCheck do not have to take off shoes or belts or remove laptops from their cases. The federal Transportation Security Administration will open a TSA PreCheck office in Sacramento International Airport Monday as part of a national effort to reduce wait times at airport checkpoints.
Travelers with Approved PreCheck do not have to take off shoes or belts or remove laptops from their cases. The federal Transportation Security Administration will open a TSA PreCheck office in Sacramento International Airport Monday as part of a national effort to reduce wait times at airport checkpoints. Bee file 2010

The federal Transportation Security Administration will open a TSA PreCheck office in Sacramento International Airport on Monday as part of a national effort to reduce wait times at airport checkpoints.

Approved PreCheck program fliers, considered at low risk for committing terrorist acts, are allowed to use a separate, shorter line at airport checkpoints where they do not have to take off shoes or belts or remove laptops from their cases.

The new TSA office will be located in a corner of the baggage claim level of Terminal B. Officials will conduct a “soft launch” this week, allowing some passengers to apply, but will not be fully open and taking reservations until Monday, TSA spokesman Nico Melendez said.

The airport office will supplement two existing offices in the Sacramento region, one on Hurley Way, the other in a West Sacramento shopping strip.

To qualify for PreCheck, fliers must fill out a form, present their passport or other identification and submit to fingerprinting. The program involves a criminal background check. It costs $85 to enroll in PreCheck for five years.

Enrollment in the 3-year-old national program lagged expectations until this spring, when growing lines at airport checkpoints created a surge of interest in PreCheck, creating weeks-long waits for appointments at the two local Sacramento offices.

At Sacramento airport, wait times have increased to a half hour during peak flying hours, though the typical checkpoint wait is closer to 10 minutes, airport spokeswoman Laurie Slothower said.

Sacramento will join 49 other airports nationally with PreCheck offices in-terminal, including several in Southern California: Los Angeles, San Diego and John Wayne.

TSA officials encourage fliers to go online first at the TSA website to fill out the forms and to set up an appointment for fingerprinting. Typically, office visits last about five minutes for people who make online reservations. People who drop into a TSA PreCheck office without an appointment will have to wait for an opening.

The airport PreCheck office also will take walk-ins as well, but it is uncertain at this point how long they might wait. For fliers waiting for their baggage, it might be worthwhile to drop in, Melendez said.

Fliers typically receive PreCheck in the mail a few weeks after they apply. But the TSA has been approving many fliers more quickly, at times notifying them online in less than a week, with a link to a website where they can pick up their Known Traveler Number, or KTN, to be used when purchasing plane tickets.

TSA officials say they have now enrolled 3.5 million PreCheck qualifiers at 387 offices nationally. Melendez said the TSA will add more PreCheck lines at the airport security checkpoints as more people sign up.

Tony Bizjak: 916-321-1059, @TonyBizjak

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