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More than a quarter of the record number of air travelers boarding flights at Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport have received an early Christmas gift.

TSA PreCheck is now in place at the airport's security checkpoint, permitting those with the certification to speed through without taking off  shoes and belts or waiting for inspection of their laptops, officials said today.

"It's important with the number of business customers," said Terry Hart, the airport's chief executive. "The business traveler who is on the road a lot looks forward to that."

Hart said as many as 30% of the airport's passengers already have PreCheck status.

TSA PreCheck comes to Lovell Field as it sets a new high mark for annual passenger boardings even with one more month left in the year.

Through November, the airport has boarded about 508,000 passengers, surpassing last year's record of 504,298, Hart said. Traffic is up about 10% through the first 11 months over 2018, he said.

Hart told the Airport Authority in a meeting that boardings are expected to at least hit 550,000 passengers for the entire year.

Dan Jacobson, the Authority's chairman, cited the "tremendous growth" of passenger traffic at the airport. It's the sixth consecutive year of record boardings in Chattanooga.

To use PreCheck, the Transportation Security Administration permits fliers to go through a pre-enrollment process to verify their identity, present documentation to confirm their citizenship and immigration status and provide fingerprints. The cost is $85 for five years.

In November, 93% of TSA PreCheck passengers waited less than five minutes to get through their airport checkpoints countrywide, according to the federal agency.

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