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When reserving flights, you’ve likely observed that there’s a check box in which you can input your Known Traveler Number (KTN). And if you’re new to TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, you are probably wondering what a Known Traveler Number is, how it works, and why you don’t have anything to fill in your TSA PreCheck or Global Entry number yet. Well, here’s everything you need to quench your curiosity.

What is a known traveler number?

A Known Traveler Number (KTN),  also commonly referred to as a Trusted Traveler Number, is a special number designated to travelers by the United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), or Department of Defense (DoD). This number qualifies that you had gone through a preflight history test or different screening before checking in for a flight.

Known Traveler Number (KTN)

Why do you need it?

Having a Known Traveler Number when reserving a flight increases the probability of you using the TSAs PreCheck safety screening lanes at partner U.S. airports substantially. Your KTN also lets you utilize expedited customs processing at some participating airports in case you are a Global Entry member.

Your Known Traveler Number is like your club membership/ registration to a Trusted Traveler Program. A known traveler designation is what permits you to get the right of entry to TSA PreCheck safety lanes and Global Entry lanes. This is, however, subject to the Trusted Traveler Program you are a member of.

Getting a Known Traveler Number

There are certain programs you have to participate in to be eligible for a Known Traveler Number. These are:

You don’t have to fly regularly to know how much of a headache airport clearing processes are. Those who have gone through a TSA PreCheck will vouch for how different it is from the conventional airport clearance experience. 

If this is your first time coming across this information, a TSA PreCheck Program is one of five trusted traveler programs. Of the five, four are meant for individual and business travel, but one program—FAST, is exclusive to commercial trucking businesses. 

TSA PreCheck

While the other programs are administered privately, TSA PreCheck is done by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Since the program began in 2001, the program has been making it easy for low-risk travelers to get through a security checkpoint, and many airlines have signed up for TSA PreCheck.  

On busy days your Spirit Airlines Known Traveler Number or Norwegian TSA PreCheck or Known traveler number from a  participating airline will mean that you may not have to take what you had packed through security.  That said, you need to complete a membership application and await approval. Once approved, you get a 5-year active membership, which you can renew.

Global Entry is an expedited screening arrangement for persons coming into the U.S. from an overseas country. It basically pre-screens or does a background check on an applying member for potential red flags. This involves examining whether they have a criminal record in order to decide whether or not, now or in the future, the applicant might pose a threat to the country. 

Global entry comes with a TSA PreCheck; hence if you are flying internationally, you can use your American Airlines known traveler number, air France TSA PreCheck, or JetBlue redress number, among many other Global entry programs from participating airlines. 

A Global Entry interview happens at an enrollment center which you will find in major international airports globally. It involves some biometrics and a physical interview with a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer but once approved, you, too, can use a KTN number on your next flight. 

Traveler Program

Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI) is a trusted traveler’s program that provides modified security control processes for its members who have been approved prior to travel. SENTRI also offers significant improvements in overall security by making controls more efficient. 

If you are on SENTRI,  you can get into the U.S. through special lanes at select Southern land border ports. Another plus is that approved SENTRI participants can use NEXUS lanes when coming into the U.S. from Canada by land. 

Using the SENTRI lane when entering through border points will make your traveling easy, but you can also add it as your KTN number when reserving a flight. It will also benefit you when getting into an airline’s frequent traveler program. A SENTRI pass will work in other countries like Germany, the Netherlands, UK, Panama, and Taiwan.

NEXUS provides a modified security process for pre-approved members;  it is a nice way to beat the queues and be on your seat quickly. NEXUS, unlike SENTRI, is exclusive to those entering the  United States or Canada. There are dedicated NEXUS lanes at airports and other points of entry, even by sea.

Simply ask for the NEXUS line at the point of entry to avoid the long wait times at security checks.  To be eligible for NEXUS, you have to be a citizen or lawful resident of either the U.S. or Canada or a Mexican national who is a member of Viajero Confiable.

How do I know if I have a known traveler number?

You will only know you have a Known Traveler Number once you have applied for it and are confirmed by the issuing authority. You can check your KTN online or at the back of your NEXUS, SENTRI, or Global Entry Card.

That said, you must know that in the interest of security, the TSA randomizes checks, and sometimes even with a KTN number, you have to go through a security check.

You may also be subject to a check, your TSA PreCheck notwithstanding, if your names don’t match or you enter an incorrect KTN number. Once you iron out issues like booking through an agent or saving your KTN number on your frequent flyer profile, your KTN status is meant to be used.

Feel free to ask for directions to the KTN designated lanes at any participating airport and go straight through security. Always add it to your reservation record, and even when you print your ticket, you will see it indicated in your ticket. Your TSA PreCheck also makes it easy for the airline to make a follow-up if you have a problem on a flight since TSA retains the data for a while—3 days after you fly.

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