Can I Apply TSA PreCheck to Flights I’ve Already Booked?

Jul 10, 2016

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Update: A representative from American Airlines emailed us with some clarification regarding this issue: “If you book via a travel agency, you will also want to ensure they have the correct KTN and DOB. For example, how American is setup: if your travel agency submits a KTN, but it is wrong, the AAdvantage profile won’t override the data submitted by the travel agency. However, if the travel agency doesn’t submit any KTN, and we see you have a KTN in your AAdvantage profile, we will automatically add it.” The rep also clarified that American won’t make any changes to the passenger’s DOB if that’s not aligned correctly.

TPG reader Glenn sent me an email to ask about using TSA PreCheck:

“If I’m approved for TSA PreCheck, will I get a card that lets me just walk into the TSA PreCheck line, or do I always have to supply my number when I book my tickets?”

The TSA has received plenty of bad publicity so far this year, as long waits at security checkpoints have continued to make headlines. With domestic air travel predicted to hit record highs this summer, more and more passengers are turning to expedited security programs like PreCheck and Global Entry to trim their travel times. I think these programs are absolutely worthwhile for frequent flyers, but it’s important to understand how they work so you can get your money’s worth.

While Global Entry provides members with an ID card, TSA PreCheck does not. Instead, you’ll receive written notice of approval that includes your Known Traveler Number (KTN), which is what determines whether you’ll be able to use the PreCheck lane on any given flight. If your KTN shows up on your reservation, then you’re all set. If not, then there’s little you can do at the airport to use the expedited lane.

The TSA actually does allow you to add your KTN to existing reservations. Most airlines let you do this by managing your reservation online (the same way you would for seat assignments or other changes), but you can also do it by phone. The most important step is to make sure that the information in your reservation perfectly matches whatever is in your TSA profile. Otherwise, your passenger data won’t be recognized and you won’t be able to use the PreCheck lane.

The easiest way to ensure that your KTN shows up is to add it to your various frequent flyer profiles. That way it will be added automatically to your reservations, and you won’t have to remember to input it every time you book a flight. You’ll need to do that for each airline individually, but keep in mind that not all airlines take part. The TSA recently added four airlines to the list, and both Frontier and Spirit should be added soon, which would bring the total number of participating carriers up to 18.

The TSA
The TSA has expanded PreCheck to include Aeromexico and several other international airlines.

If you’re thinking of applying for PreCheck, I recommend going for Global Entry instead, since you’ll typically get PreCheck anyway once you’re approved and update your airline profiles. Global Entry only costs $15 more ($100 instead of $85), and it can save you a lot of time when you return home from travel abroad. There are several credit cards that will cover your application fee for Global Entry or PreCheck, which negates the slightly higher cost.

For more tips on how to speed your way through airport security, check out these posts:

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

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