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Expedited Security Screening At Pittsburgh International Aims For 5-Minute Wait Time

You make your airline reservations and you’re often instructed to arrive 90 minutes to two hours before your flight time for security purposes. Now Pittsburgh International is the first airport to have a co-located application site to get domestic and international travelers through security more quickly.

Ross Feinstein, press secretary for Transportation Security Administration (TSA), said TSA Pre-check is an expedited pre-screening program available at 118 airports, including Pittsburgh International, with designated express lanes.

“It allows those passengers in TSA Pre-check lanes to keep their shoes on, their outer most garment or jacket on, leave that liquids gels and aerosols baggie in their carry-on luggage, and leave their laptop in their bag,” Feinstein said. “What that means for the travelers is they’re going to be expedited through security much quicker since they don’t need to divest all of those items you’re so use to removing in the standard screening lane.”

According to Feinstein, TSA created the pre-check program in December to compliment the Customs Service’s Global Entry program. There are 260 application centers nationwide, including at 22 airports, to expedite passengers who only fly domestically. But now Pittsburgh International has the first co-located center where travelers can apply for either Global Entry or TSA Pre-check.

Global Entry carries a $100 fee for five years and applicants must have a passport, while TSA Pre-check costs $85 for the five years. With Global Entry, passengers arriving back in the U.S. bypass the customs agent, go to a kiosk and scan their passports, answer the typical declaration questions, have their photo taken, get a receipt and leave the airport.  Feinstein said if you sign up for Global Entry you get the benefits of TSA Pre-check as well.

However, when applying the individual must agree to submit personal information. 

“If a passenger is willing to provide information to the federal government so we can do a criminal background check, since we know more about this passenger, we can provide this expedited screening as well as expedited immigration and customs,” Feinstein said. “So again it’s up to each traveler to make that  determination.”

So how much time might it take to get through the expedited lanes? 

“The goal here for TSA Pre-check lanes is five minutes or less," Feinstein said. "The business traveler and travelers just want consistency; they’re willing to wait for five minutes; they just want to get to the airport and know it’s going to be five minutes or less.”  

Feinstein said he can’t promise it will be five minutes, “but it will be much less than a standard screening lane.”

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm