It’s summer, which usually just means its amateur hour at the airport. But add in two years of pent up demand, even non-amateurs out of practice, and airlines and airport facilities both struggling to staff up… and you get a special kind of travel hell.
And that’s why this is a particularly good time to give in to one of those airport fast track subscriptions, like TSA PreCheck, CLEAR, Global Entry, or something even more exotic.
Every second counts more than ever, and with unprecedented general passenger lanes, a speedy alternative to zip through feels absolutely phenomenal. Here are a few choices, based on what you’re looking for — and where you are.
TSA PreCheck: The Most Basic, But Good
If you’re going to get TSA PreCheck and travel internationally, you might as well go to the little bit of extra effort and apply for GlobalEntry. For those of you who don’t travel internationally, this is perfect.
Who Should Get It: People who travel almost entirely domestically within the USA. TSA PreCheck is limited to US Citizens, Nationals and long time permanent residents.
Why You Should Get It: It’s an easy application, reasonable fee and you can keep your shoes and belt on, laptops in bags and liquids too. Lines are often considerably shorter than general security and that saves major time. Paired with CLEAR, it’s even better.
Annual Fee: The application fee for TSA PreCheck is $85 for a 5 year subscription, so $17 a year. TSA PreCheck bills as one $85 transaction and renews after 5 years for $70.
CLEAR: An Amazing TSA Companion
CLEAR is basically skip the line privileges, but if you combine it with TSA PreCheck its both hassle saving and time saving. CLEAR is a separate, non-government service that works with the TSA to verify traveler identities.
CLEAR users are then directed to the front of their respective general traveler, or PreCheck lane. So yep, even if PreCheck is crowded, you should still be really quick. It’s worth noting that sometimes there is no line at TSA PreCheck, so in these instances the benefits aren’t as heavily felt.
Who Should Get It: People who have TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. Members without a separate subscription to either will still need to remove liquids, laptops, belts and any shoes to pass through security. It’s often good enough as is, but skipping to the front of PreCheck makes it really fast.
Why You Should Get It: Frequent travelers who find themselves frequenting airports during peak security times, or who value reliable TSA Security wait time windows. So, basically anyone who likes getting airside really quickly.
Annual Fee: Until May 19th, CLEAR subscriptions are available for $179 per year, or $15 per month. If you join Delta SkyMiles, it’s cheaper. Some credit cards offer CLEAR credit as a benefit, and loyalty programs such as Delta SkyMiles also offer it as an elite member perk.
Global Entry: Phenomenal Travel Value
Global Entry requires a bit more hassle than other services, since applications are more scrutinized and an in-person interview is required, but it’s wonderful.
Global Entry offers the benefits of TSA PreCheck, but for an extra $15 over 5 years, you get expedited arrivals through US CBP immigration. Once approved, the automated machines process arrivals into the US in seconds, saving potentially hours.
Who Should Get It: People who want TSAPreCheck, but for $100, versus $85, would rather enjoy the faster screening through US immigration as well. If you travel out of the country at least once a year, I’d say its 100% worth it.
Why You Should Get It: Speedy processing through immigration upon arrival into the USA. Hours saved waiting in lines, over time. And you get PreCheck automatically.
Annual Fee: Global Entry is a $100 application fee for a 5 year membership, so $20 per year. Many credit cards cover the full Global Entry enrollment fee.
American Airlines Five Star: Niche and Nice!
American Airlines offer VIP airport treatment as a paid service, which anyone flying on American Airlines can enjoy. Prices vary and promos are frequent. The service can help expedite people through many of the pain points at the airport.
Who Should Get It: People who are traveling soon and are too late for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck applications to clear before their flight. People who want a “one off” fun experience getting the VIP/Celeb treatment at an airport.
Why You Should Get It: Celebrities and VIP’s use the Five Star service to avoid being unescorted through key checkpoints. At certain airports where American has big flex, it can help with arrivals and departures. It’s niche, but nice to know about.
The Fee: You can book and browse American Airlines Five Star packages on the official website and see if any make sense for your trip. Prices range from around $140-$350 and up. The Five Star Service is a highly personal decision based on unique individual circumstances.
PS @ LAX: Flying Private, Almost!
For big time ballers and people who can’t take another selfie request. PS @ LAX offers two distinct opportunities to avoid the airport terminal entirely. They have their own private terminal and drive you to your plane door.
Who Should Get It: People with an American Express Black Card, or anyone prepared to pay $695 per person for fully private lounge access and a car ride to the plane with private security clearance, or $4350 for a fully private VIP suite to rest in before flight.
Why You Should Get It: Because it’s laughably amazing. You avoid the public terminal and are treated to ridiculous levels of luxury. The PS @ LAX team coordinates to drive you to your flight at the perfect moment, and even checks bags for you.
Annual Fee: It’s $4350 for a group of up to (4) non members to book a private suite, or $695 per person for Salon at PS @ LAX access. Membership to PS @ LAX reduces the per use cost significantly. Even if it’s not for you right now, it’s nice to dream, right?
Credit Cards Make Many Airport Services Free
Whether you’ve got a $95 annual fee credit card or a $5,000 a year fee card, there’s a fair chance that your rewards card cover the application costs of at least one or more of these services.
Capital One Venture, Chase Sapphire Cards, Amex Green, Gold And Platinum among others all offer a fee credit covering Global Entry. Amex Centurion ‘Black Card’ holders also get a complimentary visit to PS @ LAX.
There are lots more, so before you pass on these opportunities because you don’t want to pay for them, see if one of your credit cards has been ready to cover it for you the whole time!