An illustration of a family traveling in the airport.
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Air Travel

TSA PreCheck Is Now Free for Teenagers Traveling With Their Parents

The new policy will ease summer travel for families across busy airports.

On Monday, officials announced a new TSA PreCheck policy that will ease the airport process for families with older kids: All children under the age of 18 can now accompany a parent or guardian through the faster PreCheck line, free of charge.

Previously, the agency only allowed children 12 years old or younger to accompany parents through the PreCheck line without having a membership of their own. Now with the addition of teenagers aged 13 to 17, families with older kids are also granted a smoother process in the airport security line. (Of course, the parent or guardian accompanying the minors must be a current member of PreCheck and have it designated on their boarding pass.) 

Especially for families traveling with children, having a PreCheck membership can save a lot of time in the terminal, as it means members and their kids don’t need to remove liquids, laptops or other large electronics from their bags, and they can keep on light jackets and shoes, too. In April, 94 percent of PreCheck passengers waited less than five minutes at the security checkpoint, according to the TSA. Memberships are $78 per adult and last for five years, though many travel rewards credit cards offer statement credits that cover the fee.

If you are a current PreCheck member, make sure to input your known traveler number on every airline reservation for the most seamless experience at the airport. It might seem like an obvious step, but it’s one that many travelers forget, according to the TSA, and it leads to confusion and tension at the security line—all completely avoidable with proper planning. (If you forget to input your known traveler number when booking, you can have an airline agent add it to your boarding pass at the terminal's check-in counter.)

Allowing teenagers through TSA PreCheck with their parents is just one way the agency is preparing for the busy summer season, during which a record-breaking number of travelers are expected at airports this year. On the Friday before Memorial Day Weekend alone, the TSA predicts that 2.6 million people will be processed through U.S. airports. The agency has added new X-ray machines that mean travelers need to remove fewer items from bags and has added self-service, facial recognition scanners to the podiums in front of the checkpoints for faster processing.

Another tactic to smooth out operations? Hiring more officers at checkpoints and offering improved compensation. “Our staffing levels are better, and this is largely due to better pay for all TSA employees, which starts on July 1st,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a statement. The pay increase means TSA officers will be compensated on the same pay scale as other federal employees for the first time. “As expected, this has already improved our recruiting and retention rates,” Pekoske said. “For passengers, this will mean better overall staffing for all of TSA’s activities that support secure and efficient travel and an improved passenger experience.”