It’s summer, which usually just means your amateur hour at the airport. But add two years of pent-up demand, even out-of-practice non-hobbyists, and airlines and airport facilities struggling to staff… and you get a special kind of travel from hell.
And that’s why this is a particularly good time to give in to one of those fast-track airport 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 quick alternative to gliding feels absolutely phenomenal. Here are some options, based on what you’re looking for and where you are.
TSA PreCheck: the most basic, but good
If you’re going to be getting TSA PreCheck and traveling internationally, you might as well go a little extra mile 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 US TSA PreCheck is limited to US citizens, nationals, and long-time permanent residents.
Why you should get it: It’s an easy request, a reasonable fee, and you can keep your shoes and belt on, laptops in bags, and liquids, too. The lines are usually considerably shorter than general security and that saves a lot of time. Together with CLEAR, it’s even better.
Annual quota: The application fee for TSA PreCheck is $85 for a 5-year subscription, or $17 per year. TSA PreCheck bills as an $85 transaction and renews after 5 years for $70.
CLARO: an amazing TSA companion
CLEAR is basically bypassing the line privileges, but if you combine it with TSA PreCheck, you save time and hassle. CLEAR is an independent, non-governmental 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 yes, even if PreCheck is crowded, you should be very quick. It is worth noting that sometimes there is no line at TSA PreCheck, so in these cases the benefits are not felt as strongly.
Who should get it: People who have TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. Members who do not have a separate subscription to either will need to remove liquids, laptops, belts and any footwear to go through security. It’s often good enough as-is, but skipping to the beginning of PreCheck makes it really fast.
Why you should get it: Frequent travelers who find themselves frequenting airports during peak security hours, or who value TSA Security’s reliable wait-time windows. So basically anyone who likes to get up in the air really fast.
Annual quota: Through May 19, CLEAR subscriptions are available for $179 a year or $15 a month. If you join Delta SkyMiles, it’s cheaper. Some credit cards offer CLEAR credit as a benefit, and loyalty programs like Delta SkyMiles also offer it as a benefit for elite members.
Global Ticket – Phenomenal Travel Value
Global Entry requires a little more hassle than other services, as 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 additional $15 over 5 years, you get expedited arrivals through US CBP immigration. Once approved, automated machines process US arrivals in seconds , potentially saving hours.
Who should get it: People who want TSAPreCheck, but for $100, rather than $85, would also prefer to enjoy faster screening through US immigration. If you travel out of the country at least once a year, I’d say it’s worth the 100% penalty.
Why you should get it: Fast processing through immigration upon arrival in the US Hours saved waiting in lines, over time. And you get PreCheck automatically.
Annual quota: Global Entry is a $100 application fee for a 5-year membership, thus $20 per month. Many credit cards cover the full Global Entry registration fee.
American Airlines Five Star: Niche and Nice!
American Airlines offers VIP treatment at the airport as a paid service, which anyone who flies on American Airlines can enjoy. Prices vary and promotions are frequent. The service can help speed people through many of the airport’s pain points.
Who should get it: Early travelers who arrive too late for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck applications to clear before their flight. People who want a fun “one of a kind” experience getting the VIP/Celebrity treatment at an airport.
Why you should get it: Celebrities and VIPs use the Five Star service to avoid being escorted through key checkpoints. At certain airports where American has great flexibility, it can help with arrivals and departures. It’s a niche, but good to know.
The fee: You can book and search for American Airlines Five Star packages on the official website and see if any make sense for your trip. Prices range from $140 to $350 and up. Five Star Service is a very personal decision based on unique individual circumstances.
PS @ LAX: Private flight, almost!
For big gamers and people who can’t take another selfie request. PS @ LAX offers two different opportunities to bypass the airport terminal altogether. They have their own private terminal and take you to the door of your plane.
Who should get it: People with an American Express Black card, or anyone willing to pay $695 per person for completely private VIP lounge access and a drive to the plane with private security clearance, or $4,350 for a completely private VIP suite for rest before the flight.
Why you should get it: Because it’s ridiculously amazing. You avoid the public terminal and are treated to ridiculous levels of luxury. The PS @ LAX team coordinates to get you to your flight at the perfect time, and even checks your bags for you.
Annual quota: It costs $4,350 for a group of up to (4) non-members to book a private suite, or $695 per person for Lounge access at PS @ LAX. Membership to PS @ LAX significantly reduces the cost per use. Even if it’s not for you right now, it’s nice to dream, right?
Credit cards make many airport services free
Whether you have a $95 annual fee credit card or a $5,000 annual fee card, there’s a good chance your rewards card will cover the application fees for at least one or more of these services.
Capital One Venture, Chase Sapphire Cards, Amex Green, Gold and Platinum, among others, offer a fee credit that covers Global Entry. Amex Centurion ‘Black Card’ holders also get a courtesy visit to PS @ LAX.
There are many more, so before you pass up these opportunities because you don’t want to pay for them, see if one of your credit cards has been ready to cover them all along!