TSA Will Finally Let Travelers Do This, Starting Now

It's part of a larger initiative that the security agency announced in the spring.

Travel has been top-of-mind lately, as more Americans are taking the long-overdue vacations they had to postpone at the height of the pandemic. But with the surge in demand, airlines have been struggling to keep up, and delays and cancellations have been plaguing passengers throughout the summer travel season. On June 25, Lisa Farbstein, a spokesperson for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), tweeted that the number of passengers moving through airports was returning to pre-pandemic levels. But while traveling may take a bit longer and require getting to the airport even earlier, the TSA just announced it will now let travelers do something they haven't been able to before. Read on to find out which TSA policy is changing, effective immediately.

READ THIS NEXT: The TSA Just Made This Major Change to Airport Security.

The TSA has been undergoing changes to make security more efficient.

TSA PreCheck Banner at the Airport
David Tran Photo/Shutterstock

The TSA has made a number of recent changes, including the introduction of new technology. In June, the agency said it was rolling out new equipment, known as credential authentication technology (CAT) scanners, at certain U.S. airports. The innovative technology uses a personal ID to match each traveler to their flight information, eliminating the need to show boarding passes to TSA agents when going through security and making the overall process simpler, Conde Nast Traveler reported.

But frequent fliers had already been capitalizing on a speedy security experience via TSA PreCheck, a program under the Trusted Traveller Program that allows you access to expedited security lines at the airport. Now, the TSA announced that PreCheck is getting a new feature, allowing passengers to choose a brand new option on their applications.

You'll see another category when applying for TSA PreCheck.

filling out application online
chainarong06 / Shutterstock

The TSA is making efforts to be more inclusive and is now allowing travelers to choose "X" as a gender marker when applying for the PreCheck program, The Points Guy reported. This provides—for the first time—an option for travelers who don't identify as male or female.

"TSA remains committed to ensuring all travelers are treated with respect and dignity," David Pekoske, TSA Administrator, said in a statement, per The Points Guy. "This new TSA PreCheck enrollment feature reaffirms our commitment to equality and inclusion for all people, including the LGBTQI+ community."

New applicants will have the option to select "X" as an additional gender category, but are still required apply with their legal name, Travel + Leisure reported. Those who already have TSA PreCheck can change the gender listed on their account by calling 855-347-8371 on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. Eastern Time (ET).

The TSA announced plans to include another gender option on applications on March 31—which is also International Transgender Day of Visibility. Since April, the agency has permitted PreCheck applicants "to select their gender based on self-attestation, regardless of the gender on the person's identification documents."

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This isn't the only change the TSA is making for these travelers.

man going through security checkpoint
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In addition to the gender-inclusive option for TSA PreCheck, other policy changes are being made to benefit the transgender community. The screening vestibules you go through at the security checkpoint, formally known as Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) units, are being updated in order to avoid using gender-based screening for security. The TSA received $18.6 million in funding for its 2022 fiscal budget to carry out the development, testing, and implementation of new algorithms to improve travelers' experience, the agency said.

"Over the coming months, TSA will move swiftly to implement more secure and efficient screening processes that are gender neutral, as well as technological updates that will enhance security and make TSA PreCheck enrollment more inclusive," Pekoske said in the March press release. "These combined efforts will greatly enhance airport security and screening procedures for all."

The agency further added that there would be less-invasive pat-down screenings "in sensitive areas" for passengers who trigger AIT alarms. According to the March announcement, both the new pat-down procedures and AIT screening technology are to be deployed later in 2022.

Airlines are also improving travel experiences on their end.

girl holding passport and boarding pass
Casezy idea / Shutterstock

According to reporting by The Points Guy, airlines have updated their policies as well. Both United Airlines and American Airlines have an option to select "X" when buying airfare, as well as "U" for undisclosed. And earlier in July, the airline industry's lobbying group, Airlines for American, announced that all its members will need to follow suit. By 2024, airlines will need to update their computer systems that allow travelers to select "X" when choosing a gender marker.

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