Why TSA Pre✓ won’t help most Qantas passengers
Fast track through US airport security sounds great, but there's a catch.
Back in December 2019, Qantas became the 73rd airline to join the TSA Pre✓ scheme, which provides a fast-track through security lanes at US airports.
If you're regularly hitting the US, TSA Pre✓ sounds very tempting. Members get to use a separate priority security queue, don't have to take their laptops or liquids out of their bags, and don't have to remove their shoes, belts or jackets. The service is supported at most major US airports, including all the airports which Qantas flies to in the US (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas Fort Worth, New York, Chicago and Honolulu).
93% of TSA Pre✓ passengers take less than 5 minutes to get through queues, according to official figures. Joining costs US$85 for a 5-year membership.
So far, so tempting, but there's a big catch.
Only US citizens, nationals and permanent residents can apply for TSA Pre✓. Australian citizens aren't eligible unless they hold dual citizenship or have permanent residency. Effectively the same conditions also apply to the other "global traveller" schemes which the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) supports: Global Entry, NEXUS and SENTRI.
That might explain why Qantas hasn't made a big deal of the announcement. It was revealed in a TSA press release but not otherwise widely promoted. (Hat tip to Australian Frequent Flyer for noticing it.)
If you are a US citizen and regularly travelling on Qantas, the change is good news. Qantas' key oneworld partner in the US, American Airlines, is already a member of TSA Pre✓, so you'll potentially get plenty of use out of it.
The rest of us are still stuck with longer security queues. Also remember that as an Australian travelling to the USA, you'll need an ESTA travel authorisation. Since December 2018, these haven't been available for instant approval, so make sure you line yours up as soon as you book your travel.
Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears regularly on Finder.