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Why is the TSA Trying to Ruin Pre Check? (Ask Cranky)

This one was actually a little more like “Tell Cranky” instead of “Ask Cranky” but after my experience today, I thought it was a good post to write. There has been a lot of grumbling from Ask CrankyTSA Pre Check members lately about the lines being flooded with people who don’t belong.

As you all know, I only joined Pre Check (via Global Entry) this summer, and I instantly loved it. As Pre Check gets opened up to more and more people, however, it gets a little less useful. I personally put the stress on “a little,” but others may disagree.

It seems that people have been randomly getting Pre Check and those travelers seem pretty surprised. Some are getting it in advance, like this reader.

I wonder if you have heard this one. I just checked in Ryan and I for our Sunday flights. Ryan came up as having TSA Pre-check, whereas I did not.

Ryan, for the record, is a kid and isn’t likely to be going through security separate from his dad. But I’ve had others tell me the same thing, including one of our concierge clients.

Thanks for the fine service you and your team provided for my fiance on Wednesday. When I spoke to her last evening, she mentioned that she was given priority clearance through the TSA checkpoint at White Plains and she really enjoyed not having to remove everything and anything to get through security.

I had noticed in looking at the boarding passes that they said “TSA Pre Check” and after reading your post about this service I was curious about it but wondered if I flew enough to make the investment worthwhile.

Of course, we hadn’t done anything here, but somehow she was randomly chosen to go through Pre Check. I don’t mind that kind of thing personally as long as it doesn’t cause slow, long lines. But others are seeing lines get longer. From another reader.

I have noticed in the last week… that TSA is putting lots and lots of non-Pre-Check members into the Pre-Check line to, as the TSA agent in Philadelphia explained to me today, give people a taste of the program and then inviting them to join Pre-Check through the TSA website.

And I saw this myself yesterday morning at LAX. People were being directed into the Pre Check line. From what I could tell, one of the machines in the regular line wasn’t functioning so they just put a bunch of people in Pre Check. There are two big issues with this.

First, are people being properly checked to be entitled to less security? If it’s being done in advance on someone’s boarding pass, that must mean that people have been cross-checked with several watchlists and are considered to be low risk. But if some officer is just directing people at will at the airport, then there is no background check information.

I still don’t have a problem with this because I remain convinced that airport security is just theater. In my opinion, the real work is done between when the ticket is bought and when someone gets to the airport. So I would support having everyone use Pre Check-style security.

The other concern, however, is a bigger one. When you direct more people to Pre Check lines, it makes the lines longer for those who actually signed up for the service and paid for the privilege.

This is particularly aggravating when people are directed at the last minute and don’t know what they need to do. Today, the person in front of me took her shoes off. Others just looked around in confusion when being told not to take anything out of their bags. It slows things down and is really annoying for those who know the drill.

I’m hopeful this is a temporary issue. As Pre Check becomes more widespread, I’d bet we’ll see the ratio of Pre Check vs non-Pre Check lines reverse with just a minority of travelers getting the full rubdown. But until that happens, it might be a bit rougher experience than it should be.

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