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3 Legal Ways to 'Skip' Lines at the Airport

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

Waiting in line at the airport can be a soul-sucking experience, but not following the rules can land you in serious legal trouble. Fortunately, there are ways to "skip" the lines and be on the level.

One of them was released just a month ago: a free iPhone app which allows travelers passing through Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to blow through customs like a hot, carefree wind. And the winds of change are blowing with regard to air travel.

Be stuck in airport-line doldrums no longer with these three legal ways to "skip" lines at the airport:

1. Be a 'Trusted Traveler.'

Over the last decade or so, both international and domestic travelers have been able to take advantage of various "Trusted Traveler" programs which allow certain individuals to "skip" the normal customs line. These programs include:

  • Global Entry, for quick re-entry into the United States from international destinations;
  • NEXUS, for travel between the United States and Canada;
  • SENTRI, for land travel between the United States and Mexico; and
  • FAST, for commercial travel between Mexico/Canada and the United States.

Gaining entry to these programs typically requires paying a fee, submitting to an extensive background check and in-person interview, and having your biometrics (retinal scan and fingerprints) recorded.

2. Apply for TSA PreCheck.

If you're not much of an international traveler, you might consider applying for TSA PreCheck, which allows you to skip the normal security screening on your way to your gate. Only U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (green card holders) can apply, but the benefits are available at 119 airports (and the list is growing).

Once you've obtained TSA PreCheck status, you'll provide your Known Traveler Number when you buy a ticket online, over the phone, or in person (not sure who does those last two). In participating terminals, TSA PreCheck will allow status holders to:

  • Keep their shoes on,
  • Keep liquids inside bags,
  • Keep light jackets on, and
  • Pass through a standard metal detector.

Members of Global Entry, NEXUS, and SENTRI are eligible for TSA PreCheck as well.

3. Use New Apps.

Don't have the time (or the cash) to apply for government programs? Check out free apps like Airside Mobile's Mobile Passport, which has been approved by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. It's being pilot-tested in Atlanta (the world's busiest airport in terms of passenger traffic), but the service may soon spread across the country.

Don't miss out on these legal ways to make airports less lame!

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