What to Expect at the Airport in 2016

Two significant policy changes will affect security screening at U.S. airports — and some will need to get an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to enter Canada.

Longer security lines and signs banning snow globes in carry-on luggage are common sights at U.S. airports every December. Those lines will get longer heading into 2016 as the TSA PreCheck managed-inclusion program winds down for good.

Since the introduction of PreCheck in 2011 program administrators have sought to ramp up interest by randomly assigning so-called “low-risk fliers” to PreCheck lanes in U.S. airports. Now that there are more than 1 million card-carrying PreCheck travelers, the free ride is over for almost everyone else. In mid-September airports began phasing out “free” PreCheck for non-members. At present only a small percentage of non-registered travelers are being assigned to PreCheck security lanes at 133 participating U.S. airports, and the number will keep shrinking.


An even bigger policy change could affect travelers who reside in certain U.S. states and use their driver’s licenses or other state-issued identification to clear airport security. The REAL ID Act, which was introduced in 2005, was designed to ensure uniform security measures for state-issued identification. The Act’s measures been enforced in phases, and many non-compliant states have been granted extensions which are set to expire in 2016.

While the Department of Homeland Security has yet to announce a final roll-out date for REAL ID compliance at airports, the axe is set to fall sometime next year — and for some states, it could be as early as next month. A portion of the Act specifies “a driver’s license or identification card from a noncompliant state may only be used in conjunction with a second form of ID for boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft.” Passports will still work as a single form of ID. See the latest updates on each state from the Department of Homeland Security.


Beginning March 15, 2016, Canada will have a new entry requirement — an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) — for visa-exempt foreign nationals travelling to Canada by air. Exceptions include U.S. citizens and travellers with a valid visa. (Travelers entering by air or sea will not be affected by the new requirement.)

Travelers can apply online at, and will need a passport, a credit card for the $7 CAD fee, and an email address. Most applicants can expect to get an email response within minutes of applying. The authorization is electronically linked to travelers’ passports and is valid for five years or until a passport’s expiration date, whichever comes first.

To view a list of countries where residents will be required to obtain an eTA before entering Canada by air, and for additional information, visit


Kate Mulcrone

Kate Mulcrone is digital editor of Convene.