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Norfolk International Airport to get PreCheck lines

Jordan Crawford | 9/25/2013, 3:49 p.m.
PreCheck will be coming to Norfolk's airport by the end of the year.

It is funny how initial excitement for an upcoming trip disintegrates while packing for it. Picking outfits is one thing. Rationing personal hygiene products to fit a container of a specific size and anticipating the intrusive luggage check is just oppressive. But rejoice, because better days lie ahead.

PreCheck lines will be added to Norfolk International, Richmond International and 58 other airports by the end of this year, increasing the total number of participating sites to 100, according to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

For $85, travelers soon will be able to apply for TSA PreCheck, a program that allows pre-screened members to pass through designated lanes at participating airports without removing shoes, belts, light coats, laptops, or liquids. The fee covers five years of eligibility.

The program has been around on a limited basis for the past two years, but its profile is about to enhance drastically.

The agency also plans to make an online application available this fall for any U.S. citizen. It is currently available through frequent flier programs and U.S. Customs and Border Protection initiatives.

Expanding PreCheck is part of the TSA's transition from a ‘one-size-fits-all’ screening approach to a more risk-based approach, said Lisa Farbstein, a TSA spokeswoman. “We know the vast majority of the passengers represent no threat,” she said.

While travelers may focus on the convenience of PreCheck, Farbstein says her agency views the program as a way to increase security. “Because it allows us to focus our attention on those we know less about.”

The program has drawn criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union. Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst for the Speech, Privacy and Technology Project for the civil liberties organization, wrote in January about PreCheck's potential for discriminatory profiling and creating a two-class airline security system.

Once the TSA has its online application system running, enrollment will require applicants to submit their information online, then appear in person at a processing center to confirm their identities and give fingerprints. Currently, the only two processing centers are located at Washington Dulles International Airport and Indianapolis International Airport. The TSA says it plans to expand to other sites.

What the vetting process will entail is still unknown, but no passport is required. The background check is expected to take two to three weeks.

If approved, members will receive a letter in the mail and a "Known Traveler Number" to use when booking a flight. Travelers still would pass through a metal detector, and their carry-on luggage still would be scanned. Children 12 and under receive the same privileges if they are traveling with a pre-screened adult.

“I think it’s a good idea, I would do it,” said Chesapeake resident Tony White. “The fact that after you sign up and pay, it lasts for five years is excellent.”

An expansion project is currently under way at one of Norfolk International's two security screening checkpoints and is scheduled to be finished this fall. Farbstein said it is likely an airport-by-airport decision whether regular screening lines are converted to PreCheck lines.