How to Skip Security Lines at the Airport Without Paying

Several U.S. airports now offer free, scheduled security appointment programs so flyers can avoid a long wait.
Carissa Rawson
By Carissa Rawson 
Updated
Edited by Meg Lee

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Hate waiting in lines? So do we. Even if you're not interested in signing up for expedited security programs such as TSA PreCheck or Clear, there's still a way to skip the line.

How? By making yourself a reservation for screening with the Transportation Security Administration.

Let's look at how to skip security lines at the airport without paying, plus the different airports where it's possible, such as Los Angeles' (LAX) fast lane.

Make a reservation for TSA screening

The process for avoiding TSA lines will differ depending on your airport. Generally speaking, each airport has a dedicated lane available to travelers who have signed up for the reservation program.

Once your departure date approaches, you'll head to each airport's dedicated page, where you can schedule an appointment for TSA security screening. Some airports, such as LAX, will only allow you to make a reservation three days in advance. Others, such as Dallas-Fort Worth, will let you do so a week before your flight.

Note: Currently, these reservations are only suitable for screening in the general security line. If you have TSA PreCheck or Clear, you won't be able to take advantage of their benefits with this program.

Airports that offer expedited security screening for free

There are currently seven airports with fast lanes and other programs that expedite security without a cost.

Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)

The DFW Fast Pass system works in Terminal D at the D18 checkpoint. It's only available for general security, though you can make a reservation for up to ten passengers at once. Reservations can be made starting a week in advance.

John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)

Those traveling through Terminal 4 at JFK can make a reservation to skip the line between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. Reservations can be made up to 72 hours in advance and can be completed online.

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

The Los Angeles fast lane pilot program is available to guests flying out of Terminals 7 and 8. It's open from 6:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. every day, and you can make a reservation up to three days in advance, although you can also sign up for walk-up appointments.

Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)

Available to passengers routing through Terminals A and B at New Jersey's Newark airport, the Virtual Line program allows you to make appointments up to 72 hours in advance. Only flights departing from gates 40-47 in Terminal B are eligible for this system.

Orlando International Airport (MCO)

Those traveling through Orlando's airport can make a reservation up to three days in advance via MCO Reserve. It's available whether you're traveling in Terminal A or B, though hours are restricted from 5:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)

Anyone flying through Terminals 3 and 4 at Phoenix's Sky Harbor airport can make a reservation to skip the line. PHX Reserve is open at Terminal 3 from 4:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and from 5:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Terminal 4's D checkpoint. You can make an appointment starting three days in advance of your flight.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)

Seattle's Spot Saver program is open from 5:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. every day at TSA checkpoints 2, 3 and 5. These checkpoints allow you access to all gates within the airport. You can sign up for an appointment 72 hours in advance, though you can also do so when you get to the airport.

Other ways to skip the TSA lines without paying

Making a reservation in advance is a great way to skip TSA's sometimes exorbitantly long lines. However, if you're flying out of an airport that doesn't have this program, you may instead want to consider enrolling in TSA PreCheck or Clear.

TSA PreCheck

TSA PreCheck is available at more than 200 airports in the U.S. and allows you to keep your shoes on, your laptop in your bag and your liquids inside your suitcase.

TSA PreCheck isn't free; it costs $78 to register for the program, granting you a five-year membership. However, several travel credit cards will reimburse you for this expense. Some of these include:

Clear

Clear is another expedited security program available at more than 40 airports within the United States. Featuring a separate travel lane from TSA PreCheck and the standard TSA line, Clear uses your eyes or fingerprints to identify who you are. Once you've been verified, you'll be escorted to the front of the security line. Clear works in conjunction with TSA PreCheck, which means if you have both, you'll be brought to the front of the TSA PreCheck line.

The cost for Clear is $189 per year, though both The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express feature an annual credit to cover the cost. Terms apply.

If you want to skip the security line without paying

Nobody enjoys the hassle of going through airport security. However, new programs launched in a handful of cities throughout the United States allow passengers to schedule security appointments rather than wait in line. These programs are free, if somewhat limited, and can save you a lot of time at the airport.

If you're otherwise looking to skip the TSA line, you may consider enrolling in either TSA PreCheck or Clear. Although these services aren't free, there are credit cards that offer statement credits to offset the charges you'll incur.


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