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Can You Use TSA Pre✓ for International Flights? It Depends.

TSA Pre✓

Earlier in 2014 the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) expedited security program was expanded to include international flights. All international flights? Uh, no. Just those flights that depart from the U.S. on one of the agency’s partner airlines (Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Sun Country Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways and Virgin America) and only if your flight is actually operated by one of these airlines.

Does that sound confusing? Let me explain more on TSA Pre✓™ for international flights:

If you booked your ticket through one of these TSA partner airlines but your flight is really operated by a foreign carrier, you are not eligible for Pre✓™. Case in point: my flight from Orlando to Rio de Janiero was booked on United.com though was actually operated by Copa Airlines. Since Copa is a foreign alliance carrier and not a partner airline, I was not eligible for Pre✓™.

Why are foreign carriers not eligible? As of this writing (September, 2014), the TSA does not have the capacity of receiving Pre✓™-eligible passenger names prior to the flight.

If you are returning into the U.S. and have a connecting flight on one of the agency’s partner airlines, can you use Pre✓™ after clearing Customs? That also depends. Yes, according to the TSA, if your airline is one of the aforementioned partner airlines, though No if the airport is not set up for having a Pre✓™ lane. Another case in point: I often return from Mexico into Houston’s Intercontinental (IAH) airport. I am on an inbound international United flight and connecting to another domestic United flight. The path from Customs to a connecting flight at IAH is through security lanes in Terminal D that as of today have no Pre✓™ lane. So yes, I am eligible. But sadly there is no Pre✓™ lane. Although I have heard that IAH will soon have this modified. If you know of other airports with similar circumstances, let me know in the comments below.

Even if there is a Pre✓™ lane, it does not mean that you automatically can use it for your international or domestic flight even if you are Pre✓™ eligible – it all depends on the circumstances.

And sometimes if you are not eligible for TSA Pre✓™ at all, TSA may let non-eligibles use the Pre✓™ lanes anyway, as I often see when I go through security in Orlando’s International Airport (MCO).

Yes, it is confusing. Always have your Trusted Traveler number on your flight reservation and chances are, you will be granted Pre✓™ if the flight and airport circumstances line up.

Details on the TSA Pre✓™ program can be found here.


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