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

Ask Cranky, Government Regulation

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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77 comments on “Why is the TSA Trying to Ruin Pre Check? (Ask Cranky)

  1. You mean the unwashed masses are being given the same treatment as the super-metallic elite premium diamond fliers? Oh, the horror!

    Pre-check is a scam. First, the TSA is radiating our bodies with questionable doses of radiation in order to take naked pictures of our bodies. Then, they are giving us the opportunity to avoid this by paying a fee for “pre-check”.

    If you can pay a fee to get around it, then what is the point? Any terrorist will pay the fee. Many terrorists have clean records and could pass a background check.

    Pre-check should be the default for everyone, and it should be free. The government forcing people to submit to radiation, pat-downs and general harassment because they didn’t want to pay the fee for expedited screening is nothing short of extortion.

    1. Make sure to avoid that banana they offer you in first class due to the ‘questionable dose of radiation’…or flying for that matter…….

    2. you pay the fee not to avoid the detection, but to cover the background check.

      But I agree, we spend waaaay to much money on security theater, and nobody is laughing

    3. There is no “Fee” for pre-check. It just requires filling out all of the information asked when purchasing your ticket. Yes, the Global Entry/Nexus members are automatically “enrolled” in the PreCheck program, however that does not guarantee them the privilege as everyone who eligible for PreCheck also is subject to random times when they do not get to use it. I’ve been using PreCheck since the first week they started it in November, 2011 and, though I do get the random no PreCheck when I check in (About 7% of the time), I’ve never paid a thing for the privilege and only just recently bought into the Global Entry program, so I don’t have to stand in the long lines when coming back from and international trip, but that has not changed my PreCheck status.

      1. Of course there is a fee…you are obviously an elite flier, whose airline covers it…the whole arrangement is a relative scam…..but do not kidd yourself there is a fee, the only difference between you and others is the fee is being redistributed, for example I am an Amex Pl. holder and they cover my global entry and pre-check fees but i am paying ~$500 a year for that benefit along with many others, so please do not come on to the forums and say that in some way you are not paying the fee..you are

        1. Firstly, Mr/Mrs Dealing with Idiots….wind your neck in! Secondly, how on earth are you paying $500 for global entry and pre-check? Global Entry is $100 and pre-check is $85!

          Now, sit back, relax and enjoy the internet.


      2. There are many ways to get into PreCheck. At first it was by invitation for Delta and American’s eite FFers, or via one of GOES trusted traveler programs (not just Global Entry) More recently, PreCheck can be purchased separately for $85, but why anyone would do this, when Nexus (another trusted traveler program) is just $50, is beyond me.

        1. re: Nexus – Because some people don’t want to make a special trip to Canada to save $50 over Global Entry.

          Global Entry, on the other hand, is only $15 more than the PreCheck application and also gets you expedited re-entry through immigration into the US (and a few other countries). Unless you’re absolutely sure you’ll never leave the country for the next 5 years, GE is a much better value. That, and some programs (AmEx Plat, certain airline/hotel programs for high elites) provide free/reimbursed GE fees.

      3. Assuming you were added during the initial round, which was elite FF based and did not carry a fee. Going forward you’ll either pay for Pre Check (5 year subscription) or Global Entry to get it. So, there is indeed a fee now.

    4. Both times I went through Pre lines there was no machine, just a Pre specific metal detector. I hope it was set to more sensitive than the others.. but who knows?

  2. I had a terrible experience going through the ‘TSA pre check’ line at KOA last Sunday. We (with pre check) were lumped in with kids and people over 75. We didn’t have to take off our shoes, but we still had to take everything out of our bag (The agent checking IDs had to tell everyone this, which made the line move very slow). This ‘special’ line and the regular line were funneled through the same metal detector (so some people had shoes while others did not) and everyone had to stop and show the TSA agent our boarding passes several times. It was a mess.

  3. I too have Global Entry and TSA Pre Check. TSA Plans to open more than 300 Pre Check application centers across the country by the end of the 2014. The Indianapolis International Airport application center opened Dec 4th. New York City, Wash DC, and Los Angeles area airports are next.

    Soon everyone will have a TSA Pre Check. The only people in the non-Pre Check lines will be people with criminal backgrounds and Terrorists.

    1. What about aliens and furries?

      The DHS has put the USA significantly lower on my list of countries to visit for vacations.

      1. Amen. Nothing says “welcome to America” better than the wonderful welcome of the TSA, and nothing says “we’d like you to come back” better than being groped and made to feel like a criminal.

    2. I think it’s doubtful “everyone” will have Pre Check. With an $85 fee, the non-regular travelers probably aren’t going to pay and go to the trouble of submitting to the interview and biometrics.

  4. I happily paid for Global Entry. $100 bucks for 5 years is a crazy bargain to get Pre, and GE coming back from intl. travel. Small price to pay for a little bit of ease.

    I also hear anecdotally that people who didn’t pay – just got it as an elite – don’t get it all the time. Knock on wood, I’ve been at 100% for about a year now.

    But recently, there have been a lot of people in line – from my experience, all elderly – who have no idea what to do, and get super confused when told they don’t have to do much at all. One lady last week at T2/JFK started lecturing the TSA agent that her son told her she was going to have to take off her shoes, so she was very well going to take her shoes off, no matter what the man in the TSA uniform said.

    The TSA has to figure this out. Or it’s not worth the money. I can already use the DL SkyPriority line.

    And the TSA really needs more than one Pre lane at most larger airports if they’re going to put us all thru it.

    1. Having Global Entry does not automatically give you PreCheck. Anyone eligible for PreCheck is also subject to random non-selection. That’s what (supposedly) makes the system safer.

      1. In about 60 trips through PreCheck, I’ve not been selected for, uh, non-selection. I have gotten the long metal detector beep a handful of times for the, uh, hand swab.

      2. I had it as part of UA MP program initially and was denied about 25% of the time. as soon as I got GE and linked it, I’ve had 100% success.

  5. I had several relatives this last weekend end up in Pre-Check lines randomly which made them very long. Prehaps the NSA is ringing in to give the proper people clearance?

    Seriously, I would hope that the TSA has plans to make the Pre-Check program at individual checkpoints flexible enough to handle a growing “cleared” population. If you did an across-the aisle chat with a TSA administrator (or across-the x-ray machine), it would be interesting to find out what the plans are. It seems like it would be easy to adjust the queues from 1 lane (typical at most airports) to 2 or 3 or more lanes for pre-check, either on a daily or hourly basis per demand.

    1. My parents and mother-in law also got pre-check on one leg of their flight to see me over Thanksgiving. While my parents do a few flights a year my mother-in-law flew for the first time since like 2005. So the random pre-check has more to do with age than the number of times you fly.

      Clearly some government algorithm is favoring old people. I have 0 problem with this honestly. Its a bit like paying for a first class seat, then getting pissed when the guy beside you gets his on a free upgrade. To the lucky go the spoils.

  6. Does it have something to do with the fact that TSA (which now knows our birthdays through SecureFlight) now knows if were over 75 and/or under 12 since as of a year or two ago these passengers are considered low risk?

    From TSA’s website http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/screening-passengers-75-and-older:
    Passengers 75 and older can:
    -Leave on shoes and light jackets through security checkpoints.
    -Undergo an additional pass through Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) to clear any anomalies detected during screening.

    My elderly grandmother talks about how nice it is now not to have to take her shoes off when she flies anymore.

  7. “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.”

    Cranky, I think the real question is, what is the service that you (we) actually signed up for? You’re viewing this (as I think most of us do) as an efficiency thing–i.e, “By being enrolled in Pre-Check, my security experience should be as expedited as possible.” However, I think the government views it as a security/threat-level thing, and not an efficiency thing, which changes the equation.

    I base this on a conversation I had with the TSA agent who did my Global Entry interview a few weeks ago. He flat out said that the TSA is trying to put “low risk” passengers through Pre-Check at the airport, even if they aren’t enrolled in the program. He specifically said children and the elderly.

    So if that’s the case, and the government is looking at this program from a threat perspective, then unfortunately, I do see this impacting the efficiency that we’ve come to love, because to the government, it was never about speed–that was just a happy coincidence at the beginning of the program when there weren’t that many enrolled.

    1. I think that speed and efficiency are linked to threat level and resources. If more of the traveling public qualifies for pre-check and more pre-check lanes are opened at each terminal, then more passengers can be processed per TSA agent. If you got to the point where 25-50% of passengers were pre-check, then you would need fewer lines, fewer TSA personnel and be able to concentrate more scanning resources on the reamining.

      As far as the fee, this is an additional service.You have a right to fly but not a right for the government to pay for a background check & maintain it for you. Somebody has to pay for it. So either its a fee per user or an increase in the security fee on tickets, and we know where that would go.

    2. If in fact, the government is seeing it as a low threat issue, then why the $85 charge? Why am I paying $85 to present less of a threat for the government. It’s not too big a leap to associate a fee with WIIFM, and in this case, the WIIFM is speed and convenience.

      (P.S., Cranky…2 posts and I’m throttled? Doesn’t really facilitate the idea of conversations, does it?!)

      1. Hunter – You’re the second person to tell me that the throttling is too aggressive. I’m submitting a ticket to my new host to have them fix that.

    3. Andrew – I’m with Shane. I think the two are linked. The idea is that if you aren’t considered as high of a security threat, then you don’t need to be subjected to the same level of security. At least, that’s how TSA is viewing this. So in theory, it should make it easier to process more people per hour and everyone likes that.

  8. I want the airlines to take some ownership of the lines. I hate how there is no “elite” Pre-Check line. There is elite and there is precheck separate. But most elites are not precheck, so its a bad gamble of shorter line vs. shorter screening.

    Hopefully the TSA will rebalance and add more than 1 precheck lane at most checkpoints as it is becoming slow, especially during monday/thursday peak times

    1. Actually, airlines were more responsible for security pre-9/11. It’s a liability issue from their part, but I’ve often wished airlines were again the primary party responsible – even if it was paying the TSA to do the job. Different security lines for different airlines (or terminals at hubs) would make it clear who was paying and what status you get.

      1. but airlines work with airports to control and design the queues. TSA only controls from the ticket-document-checker through screening

  9. I experienced my first occurrence with this last week. I went through TSA Pre Check at Terminal 6 at LAX last week. Knowing that I TSA pre I spare my self less time at the airport. I had 2 elderly woman in front of me that had no idea what TSA pre was. They still were taking there shoes off and liquids out etc… I travel frequently to LAX from EWR and enjoy the service.

    A solid point is made about TSA letting anyone in the line. I have TSA Pre check through Global Entry as well and did the whole background check/interview. Interesting they are giving less restrictions to anyone.

    The individuals that are complaining about the fee of $100 is comical. It’s good for 5 years. As a frequent flyer I would gladly pay $20 a year to have this service. I will have close to 30 segments/75k miles by the end of the year on United and would gladly pay $1 per trip to use the TSA Pre lane!

    There are other ways were you do not have to pay for TSA Pre…elite status on United etc…(1K or Platinum), Corporate Platinum Amex also pays for your GOES Application.

    I’ve used GOES a few times…not sure how much time it actually saves at Immigration/Customs. You don’t have to fill out the customs forms on the flights coming back from abroad though.

    1. I can give a specific example (though not an exact time difference). I recently was on a trip to Ottawa, and my parents came to visit. We left the same day, an hour or so apart. They have Global Entry, but I don’t. So after going through the baggage screening, we got in the line for US Customs/Immigration pre clearance in Ottawa, and after a minute or so I saw that they had Global Entry kiosks, so I sent my parents over there. They got through pretty quickly, and were waiting for me once I was through the line.

      Though one difference in YOW compared to MSP, ATL, and LAX (other places I’ve gone though US Customs/Immigration recently) is that YOW didn’t have a separate line for US citizens and permanent residents. In my experience, that line can move pretty quickly, though it still seems like I haven’t seen much of a wait to use a GE kiosk, so that ought to still be faster.

  10. I hope this is a temporary issue. Pre check is the best thing to happen to security theater in a decade. If it is going to be a cattle call, then what’s the point other than no shoes off? It takes 1 minute to do the drill at non pre airports. It’s the short lines and efficient treatment that make the difference.

    TSA!!! Don’t f’n blow this, okay? Thanks. :)

  11. I had the opposite problem recently on a flight out of Tulsa the Saturday after Thanksgiving. As an airline employee I can usually use the crew line (and take my husband with me), but for the first time ever I was told that since I was not in uniform I could not. So we waited in a very long line, winding through the barriers and down the hall, and I noticed several things.

    -There were three scanning lines available for the TSA’s use. One was dedicated to the PreCheck line, one was in use, and one was idle. In practice, that meant we had only one station (consisting of one body scanner and two X-ray machines) trying to process this very long line.
    -When we reached the barriers, they split us into two lines, supposedly a “with families” line and a “seasoned travelers” line, but as we crept closer to the front it became obvious that they simply merged back into the single line as soon as we passed the ID check. One officer could easily have handled the volume of people creeping through the line, so it seemed very poorly planned.
    -The Pre-check line had people flying through with no wait, as there were only a few people. We did hear them say that “if one adult in your party has pre-check on their ticket the whole party can use the line,” which I’d never heard before. The rest of the time, TSA officers were sitting idly at the X-ray machine and metal detector, while the rest of us stood in line and fumed.
    -Although I expected the single body scanner to be the choke point, it was actually the X-ray machines.

    Overall it almost seemed like they’d planned it to be as obnoxious and slow as possible while waving Pre-Check in front of us to get us all to pay their fee. They obviously knew it was going to be a busy travel day, would it have been so hard to at least open a second checkpoint for the long line?

  12. A customer in front of me had this happen a couple weeks ago. She was basically at the scanner, and an employee looked at her boarding pass and told her she had Pre-Check. What’s odd is she was confused by the situation, and ultimately moved to a separate line… which was farther away and almost as busy. By the time all was said and done, I was through security before she was, despite starting out behind her.

  13. I don’t know about this older and younger passenger claim. I’m in my 30’s and my ticket sent me to the pre-check line, despite not being a registered user. My wife on the same booking did not have the pre-check indication. Maybe they are also including frequent fliers who are not registered?

    Needless to say I went in the non-Pre Check lines with my wife and I actually thought the TSA lines at all the airports I traveled to over t’day weekend (5) went very smoothly. I traveled at the peak times and the longest TSA wait I had was 23 minutes at MCO. It took me 40 min at RDU to get my roller bag that had to be checked at the gate…airlines can blame TSA all they want for bad flying experiences but for me nothing is worse than checking luggage, carrying-on luggage, luggage fees, and overhead bin space.

  14. I went through screening last week at ALB, which recently instituted Pre-Check. When I entered the line an agent was standing there with an iPad asking people to swipe. The screen then randomly assigned Pre-Check or traditional even if you didn’t have Pre-Check. It seemed to favor Pre-Check, resulting in a longer line, but because it requires less hassle it actually moved faster.

    1. I had the same experience at ANC and OGG in the past few weeks. The ‘non-pre check’ pre check line had an agent that ‘randomly’ selected people to have their hands swiped for explosive residue. It seems like they were trying to balance out the under-used pre check line. At OGG, there were about 4 agents standing around the iPad, and they were arguing about how exactly to use and interpret the program they were using.

  15. Pre-Check is great and it should indeed be reserved for the fliers that airlines have a relationship and have a background that won’t cause any problems. People should not be going through pre-check that have no clue how to get through airport security to begin with. I had this happen at Orlando last Thursday. There was an older couple ahead of me. They had to tell them several times what to do with their items. Then both of them caused the scanner to alarm because of belts and watches. Meanwhile, crew members and I are stacking up behind these folks. It’s not an “elite masses” thing, but it’s a benefit for known passengers who won’t slow down the process. As far as I’m concerned TSA can take my retina scan, fingerprints and everything else if it gets me through fast. I have nothing to hide.

  16. Remember TSA is run by the government so it’s not going to use logic or common sense or run smoothly. It’s not like shopping at your local grocery store or big box retail store who know how to handle lines of people and move people through smoothly and efficiently. Sadly airport security needs to be run by Walmart or Home Depot to work well.

  17. I experienced this last Wednesday enforce the holiday. I fly bi weekly for work out of BNA but have never been in pre check, however this flight I booked using my husband’a ample Southwest Rapid Rewards account, although he has never been pre check either. Once it was pointed out to me I could pre check, I was not sure what to do either because I had never considered it. It was great though! I did not get it on the return out of STL however, booked on the same ticket.

  18. Since when was TSA Pre-Check an upgrade service? It’s a different security protocol. The reason that airline elites were invited first was not because it was a reward. It’s that the airlines screened them as the least risky passengers. Global Entry members have met with the TSA and submitted to a background check. They are low risk. It’s just a lower security protocol. I find it laughable that so DYKWIA people are complaining about others in their line. It’s not your line pal. It has nothing to do with status or loyalty. It’s about risk assessment. Get over it. Be happy you get a taste if pre-9/11 flying. And if the other line is so much shorter because the TSA is clogging your line with the pre-checked unwashed masses, nothing is stopping you from switching lines. TSA Pre is not an elite security line. If elites feel they should get a dedicated line now that TSA Pre is open to more people that’s a fair and valid point as the airlines advertise express security lines for elites. But it’s one that should be taken up with your airline and not the TSA. Avoiding the scan, keeping your shoes on and not taking out your laptop isn’t a function of status but a function of security risk. That’s what Pre is like it or not.

    1. Nothing like airport security to expose the true, self-centered condition of the human spirit, eh? LOL.

  19. Interesting about letting those without the pre-check status “sample” the pre-check service. I flew from Atlanta to Los Angeles last night; there was an airport security man standing outside the pre-check area, shooing away those without the appropriate documentation for pre-check.

  20. I work in the industry as so was involved in meetings when TSA was planning the roll out of pre-check in my airport. I asked our then-FSD whether the goal of pre-check was to reduce passenger wait times or to decrease TSA staffing. Dead silence. So, don’t expect pre-check to enhance your experience long-term. Rather, TSA will use the increased throughput to reduce the number of lanes they staff. They haven’t reduced the target wait times.

  21. There is more to it than that. I went through Pre check at IAD last week, and they sent me back through the metal detector 4 times, first made me take off my shoes, second made me take off my jacket, third made me take off my belt and watch, and 4th made me take everything out of my pockets. They also did the same to two people behind me. When I complained about it they lied and said it was their system randomly selecting for additional screening. I called them on that and pointed out that three out of 5 is nor random. They couldn’t answer that, and lied again and said i was the only one selected, even though I had stood there and watched them do the same thing to 2 more passengers. I am over 75 so am exempt from most of that even if I am not in Pre-check. They are messing up a system that seemed to work well at one time.

  22. When everyone gets TSA Pre-Check do things go back like they were before 9/11? Every airport will have a couple of body/luggage scanners and a few board TSA agents.

  23. I noticed this in BOS this morning. They had the separate precheck line, but they used to have a hard divider after the BP scan between pre and the elite sides,, this morning they wee sending prechecks and elites through the same metal detector, and the agents were letting non precheck elites keep their does on. There were at least 20 people in the precheck line, and the weird thing was that my belt (which has never raised an alarm in about 20+ airports) buzzed this morning and I had to remove it.. I am a DL elite, plus I have NEXUS and GE,, so I’m not complaining,, since I view precheck as a side benefit to those two memberships,,, but the TSA makes no sense sometimes

  24. The first year of TSA Pre-Check was great….not having to take
    shoes off or computer out saves time… Now Pre Check can
    be delayed with all the Hip & Knee Replacements setting things off,
    along with all the “guest” try TSA pre check people. They usually
    do the additional “guest” people when the lines are
    long and they want to reduce the waiting time in line.
    I had 4 hip replacements in front of me at ORD last week and
    that really held things up waiting for someone to come check them.
    Washington DC is supposedly raising the TSA fee another
    10.00 per rd trip come January 2014. I guarantee that
    will not make us any faster thru TSA check points.

  25. “Why is (insert whatever–parking lot operators, taxi lines, airports, airlines, TSA, etc.) Trying to Ruin (insert whatever you care about–parking service, taxi service, check-in, bag processing, airport-to-plane navigation, boarding que, etc.)?

    Giving due consideration to what are or what we think are our mental and physical capabilities, our life experiences and most importantly, how important we think we are!

    Couldn’t we just contract the whole shebang to the folks at FedEx or UPS to process everything for us? One big contractor handling everything for everybody.

    Or better yet, have Mr. Beznos handle it, with a pod there when we get out of our cars or taxis, and the drone to take the pod and everything else right to the plane, with all the admin. and security stuff to done in the pod. Some pods might have to be re-routed, but screw them! Progress!

  26. I am signed up in the Global Entry program. When I travel DL I get TSA Pre everytime, whether I travel domestic or international. I am a MM Diamond with DL. I have NEVER gotten pre with AA, where I am just a Platinum. TSA Pre with DL = 100%. With all other airlines = 0%. Is this a DL deal? Or a DL MM Diamond deal?

  27. on tuesday our jax pre-check was totally out all day and te reg lines were bad noone seemed to be able to fix it????

  28. I flew through OAK on Sunday. There was a TSA agent at the beginning of the line who had a tablet running a “TSA Randomizer” application that sent folks to the right or the left line. He just tapped it and sent people the way of the arrow. We got into the Pre line, and I had my hands swabbed, but my cousin who was right behind me didn’t, even though we were in the same line.

  29. I have been qualified as Pre Check since day 1. I have GE so I have been 100% for two years. Now the lines are long and full of idiots. Here is my solution. I have a CLEAR account. CLEAR is always next to Pre. No one uses CLEAR because it is $180 per year. However, when the line at Pre is long, I use CLEAR and I get the triple beep and CLEAR escorts me to the front of Pre and past the line. It’s worth it now. My home airport is DEN so I have access to CLEAR. It helps when you are in a hurry.

  30. A couple of months ago, I was flying out of SEA, and they funneled everyone through pre-check. Those of us who don’t fly pre-check normally, but fly enough to be prepared for regular check, were almost at a loss of what to do. It seemed to me like a drug dealer saying “The first one is on us, sign up here and tell your friends…” People were confused as what to do. Every fourth or fifth person would get a swab-&-scan through a machine, which seemed to be random. I just felt bad for those who paid and had to get held up by the masses getting their free taste.

  31. Last time I went through UA Premier @ Terminal 6 LAX the pre-check line was significantly longer than the Premier Line. So much for the convenience of precheck. The ROI for submitting to a background check should be convenience . When its non-existent what’s the payback?

    1. Had this happen this week in PHL. The TSA agent was telling all these precheck people they could get into the precheck line — wrapped three times around. Nope. Each of us clearly were weekly travelers knowing that even taking our shoes off and laptops out, we’d still beat that line. I was just about to pay for GE for my weekly trips and enjoy precheck but now I’m not so sure.

  32. The TSA announced almost a year ago that they were going to roll out an additional way to get travelers in the Precheck lanes – TSA Application Program. This is the program that costs $85. The difference in this program versus the other Trusted Traveler programs (Global Entry, Nexus, Sentri) is that no passport is needed and travelers don’t have to travel to an international interview location (US/CA border, US/MX border or international airport). Interview and fingerprinting will be done near their local airport. Many people do not have passports because they don’t travel internationally. These folks would have to pay $110 plus a $25 execution fee for a passport and then an additional $100 for Global Entry (or $50 for Nexus). The cost and distance was keeping them from getting cleared for Precheck.

    The TSA also gave a date that by November 2013 25% of traveling Americans will be using Precheck because of the new program. BUT this is a government program and it is just now available for enrollment in just one location with two others about to open. Far from the 300 they promised. So, to meet their promise of 25% of travelers using the Precheck lanes by November they decided to randomly select non approved travelers to boost the numbers. What a mistake on so many levels. That’s why there has been a recent influx of surprised travelers. Unfortunately it weakens security and is a slap in the face of those travelers who are now sharing their Precheck lanes with infrequent travelers who never know what to do at airports.

  33. There’s another way TSA is bungling pre-check: Last week, when I flew through San Jose, they had completely closed off the entrance to pre-check line; after waiting in the non-precheck line, I was told by the agent that I had pre-check and could avoid the body scanner (and pass through the metal detector if I handed another agent my boarding card), but I would still have to remove my liquids/gels and laptop(s) due to the combined line.

    I don’t care about the body scanner — at SJC, oftentimes, it is quicker to use the body scanner than the x-ray because I don’t have to remove my belt (this airport seems to have particularly sensitive metal detectors). However, I lost significant amounts of time rearranging my luggage to remove my liquids/gels and 2 laptops from luggage (I had not been planning for this as standard pre-check lanes do not require items).

    Also, completely agree with previous commenters who have noticed an increase in line length and duration for pass-through.

  34. Interesting, we have neither paid for nor requested Precheck, yet the designation appears on our boarding passes. We are frequent travelers, Senior Citizens and not elite members of any airline. As I said, interesting….

  35. Travelling with my family (wife and child) only to have it never work for my wife, with the option to split up the family or deal with the TSA opening ever single bottle and can of baby food and wasting our time.

    Glad I went through the whole application and interview process and paid the TSA their extortion… for NOTHING!

    I’m 1 for 8 so far (2 ppl x 2 trips x round(2))
    * First round trip, neither my wife or I got selected on either end
    * Second round trip, departure, I get selected. Wife denied. Family split up – child screaming
    * Second round trip, return, I get selected, TSA Pre line is out of operation. We stand in extra long line and almost miss our plane.

    I would tell people thinking about paying these people and wasting their time for the interview not to get their hopes up. Expect it to be quite random and ONLY consider it if you always travel alone.

  36. As a sidenote, there are frequent flyers with pre check who must remove their shoes to avoid setting off metal detectors. Every week someone behind me makes a snarky comment about not having to remove shoes. In fact, I know which of my shoes set off the metal detector and remove them to avoid slowing up the line. Just something to keep in mind (although I do agree that many people don’t know what they’re doing)

  37. Some of you say security is theater. Some complain about “radiation” ( sorry to say this folks but you’ve been exposed to radiation since you were born). Etc Etc. You choose to fly (there are other modes and means of transportation) so I say just deal with it. Would you rather fly in and out of Korea where they carry guns and they go through your bag literally for you and then tell you you’re okay to go but you have to pack up your own stuff and you better do it in a timely matter.

    Everything has it’s kinks right?

  38. I have read all of the comments in this thread and I have to say that the system is flawed. But what government sponsored company such as TSA is perfect? Hardly none! However, that being said i have a huge issue with TSA Pre-Check. I have researched and researched this one specific topic and no one can give me a straight answer. Here are my qualifications:

    – DL DM
    – I log approximately 135K miles domestic each year
    – I travel to Canada about 10 times a year
    – I have NEXUS and Global Entry
    – Due to NEXUS i have been interviewed and background checked by 2 governments.
    – My known traveler number is applied to every DL itinerary that i book

    With all of these qualifications above I get Pre-Check about 60% of the time. All of my flights originate out of LAX with the rare flight out of LGB. How is it that someone with the above qualifications gets PC 60% of the time where other GE only or simply just random passengers get it 100% of the time? TSA tells me its random, DL says ask TSA…frankly and I am sorry if this sounds snobbish but I travel for business and frankly I do not have time to waste sitting in a line behind the flavor of the month travelers.

    Anyone have the same experiences? Ideas? TIA

  39. San Diego just got rid of their Alaska Air MVP Gold priority line, and replace it with TSA-Pre. *sigh*

  40. Here is one thing they dont tell you about Global Entry. If you are a Permanent resident of the US, and you are from certain countries (In my case its nigeria) even though you are sign up for global Entry you will NOT be cleared for pre check ever unless you sign up for TSA Pre specifically. Just a warning for everyone, cos I signed up for Global Entry just to learn later that I will not be allowed to participate in TSA Pre because of my country of birth

  41. @Loryn-
    Similar qualifications as you and the same exact experiences. I would say my hit rate for PC is a little higher, but the same frustrations exist. I’m in and out of Philadelphia a lot and since they’ve opened the floodgates you essentially have a skewed population of older, inexperienced travelers going through one lane, while the standard security lines (of which there are 4-6 at any given time) are largely empty. So my confusion in all of this is multi-dimensional:

    On the one hand, TSA Pre-Check is supposed to be about pre-screened security, yet it is a known fact that airports are regularly pulling people into the PreCheck line without them previously being ‘cleared’. At most, non PC passengers going through that lane get the ‘hand swab’, which also slows things down (not to mention the cluelessness about the process which has been covered at length in this thread). This is a nightmare for travelers who experienced PC before this wholesale change and got used to literally flying through security in under 2 minutes without fail.

    On the other hand, although I don’t believe it was ever a goal of TSA (unlikely for a government program) is efficiency. What they’ve now done is create the prototypical model of inefficiency. One lane (some airports two) have the capabilities required for PC, yet are now throwing way more passengers into the fold without the capacity to handle it. At the same time, standard lanes are operating at minimal capacity. So if you are going to do this, then at the very least create more capacity with the newly under-utilized lanes. While this won’t resolve the issue of passengers not knowing what to do, you’ll at least spread it out a little bit.

    Last but not least, and I’m not a ‘Government-Big Brother’ type of guy, but I’m curious about how all of these people received TSA Pre-Check which is in theory doing a more comprehensive background check, without their knowledge. I know when I signed up I had to ‘check the box’ or something to that degree to indicate that I was giving approval or aware of this. I can only assume that this recent crop of people are unaware of that taking place. I’m not sure anyone cares, but just thought I’d raise the point.

  42. I too have noticed an influx of ‘non frequent travelers’ in the NEXUS line.

    Like most people who fly fairly regularly (probably about 15 flights a year for me), I know the drill, and have things arranged that pulling my 3-1-1 bag out of my carryon and unzipping my checkpoint friendly laptop bag takes about 30 seconds at most. Along with shoe removal, etc.

    Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate not having to do those things in the Pre line. But the favorite thing I liked about the Pre line was that I didn’t have to deal with the masses who fly like once a year, usually with a dozen screaming kids. I’d hate to see that go away – and it seems like it’s headed that direction.

  43. My wife paid $85 for TSA pre-check for special line and quickness through security. It is currently not implemented as they fill the line with people who haven’t paid the fee. We feel ripped off.

  44. Yes it seems that the line for the pre check gets longer and longer, more random pre checks given to folks who have no idea what to do in the line. People with pets, people taking their shoes off and all their items out of their carry on luggage. Anyone have any idea how long this idiocy is going to continue? Seriously, if they want to expand the program, do it for those who are willing to pay, fly frequently and learn how it works. Grumpy after the last trip…the cat did it….

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