May 4, 2022
Benefits of TSA PreCheck for Plus-size Travelers
We love to travel, don’t we? Seeing new places. Seeing new people. Eating amazing new places. Yes, air travel is fun, but it can also be a chore for plus-size travelers. There are struggles that many of our fellow travelers don’t experience. Fortunately, there are tips, hacks and shortcuts that can help make some of those struggles a little less challenging. Let’s talk about the benefits of TSA PreCheck for plus-size travelers.
Let’s get this out of the way upfront. The current TSA screening system is not designed for plus-size travelers. In fact, it can actually discriminate against us. Travel blogs and discussion groups are filled with stories about extra screenings, rude TSA screeners and embarrassing encounters. However, it’s more than anecdotes. The Government Accounting Office (GAO) completed a report that concluded: “…the false alarm rate for passengers with a normal BMI was less than the false alarm rates for overweight and obese passengers.”
That’s right, the likelihood of being pulled out for secondary screening and pat-downs is higher if you are plus-size. Sometimes it’s because we touch the sides of the scanner. Sometimes it’s because our body mass doesn’t fit their template of “normal”. Whatever the reason, it ends with us being groped by a TSA screener. PreCheck passengers only have to pass through a metal detector in most cases. Yes, they are a bit narrow, but they don’t ask you to spread your legs uncomfortably wide.
Two decades ago, some guy tried to hide a bomb in his shoe. Ever since then, we’ve had to balance ourselves against the conveyor and take off our shoes (hoping we picked socks that don’t have a hole in them) and put them in the bin for inspection. Next, if you have a belt, it comes off. Then the jacket. After you’re done auditioning for the next Magic Mike movie, you start removing your electronics, putting things in separate bins and then getting to the other end of the conveyor to do the whole thing in reverse. PreCheck eliminates that. You can keep your shoes, belt and light jacket on to go through the metal detector. You can also leave laptops and properly sized liquids in your bag.
Nobody likes standing in the TSA lines. Depending on the day and time, those lines can look like the queue for Disney World’s newest attractions. Recently the airport in Austin (ABIA) was in the news because of a morning from Hell that had passengers in a “line to get through security stretched down the Barbara Jordan Terminal, outside the building and back down the entire length of the terminal.” Do you know who wasn’t stuck in the line? PreCheck passenger. Does PreCheck mean you will never wait? No, it doesn’t. But it does mean that your wait will be shorter and let’s be honest, less time standing in line is a good thing.
Time is money, but that’s not what we mean here. TSA PreCheck is not free, but it is economical. It currently costs $85 for five years. For those who hate math, that’s $17 a year. Even for an infrequent flier, that’s a pretty good return on investment. There are other services, like CLEAR, that are designed to save time, but at $179 a year, it’s pretty steep for the casual traveler. Added to that, CLEAR just allows you to skip the already shorter PreCheck line and it’s only available in about 30 airports currently. PreCheck is the clear winner here.
How to Get it
TSA PreCheck is easy to get. Go to the website and fill out the application. Once it is submitted, you will get an appointment from TSA to come to the nearest office (usually a nearby airport) for the in-person part. There you will show the required identity documents and be fingerprinted. Then you wait for the email that will contain your Known Traveler Number (KTN). This often takes only 3-5 working days, although some applications can take longer.
One caveat: Not every airport will have a TSA PreCheck Lane or have one open at your particular time. So always plan to get to the airport with enough time.
Until next time travelers, be safe, live a full life, be kind and help others. Can’t wait to catch you on our next adventure.
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Big Guy Big World is a travel blog, following Mark Jacoby’s journey as a big guy on a bigger journey, exploring the world during a global pandemic. Follow along as we experience some of the world’s most beautiful and exotic places.