Paying for a faster airport security line

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You can keep your jacket, belt and shoes on through airport security. You just need to fly a lot, or pay for the privilege.

The Transportation Security Administration recently announced plans to vastly expand a new passenger screening program that speeds up check-in at airports. TSA's security plan gives a break to passengers who are considered less of a threat.

The program is already in the test phase at seven airports, and will be expanded to 35 by the end of the year (including Kennedy Airport by the end of this month). The catch? It's only available to select frequent fliers, or those who qualify for special screening plans, which cost up to $100.


THE FAST LANE

Every airline isn't eligible -- at least not right away. Right now, only high-level frequent fliers at Delta and American Airlines can be invited to join the program. Fliers with top-tier status on US Airways, United and Alaska are also getting invites later this year.

Members of Customs and Border Protection's Trusted Traveler programs Global Entry, Sentri and Nexus who are U.S. citizens are eligible to apply at globalentry.gov. Prices range from $42 to $100 for a five-year membership.

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HOW IT WORKS

There will be a criminal-background check and possibly a requirement to provide extra personal information. When a passenger joins the program, the membership becomes part of their frequent flier profile. TSA agents will know this upon scanning the bar code on these passengers' boarding passes and shuttle them to an expedited screening line.

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Belts and shoes stay on, laptops and liquids remain in bags and everything moves faster. But even these passengers can be subjected to scanners and pat-downs.


EVERYBODY ELSE

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Don't assume these new speedy security lines will reduce the wait for everyone. Despite the expansion, members in the new program will only make up a small sliver of daily passengers. So it's still important to get to the airport well ahead of your flight, put your liquids in 3-ounce containers and wear slip-on shoes.

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