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November 25, 2013

TSA Pre-Check: A Pleasant Surprise in the Fine Print

Filed under: Travel — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:01 am

On the way back from Washington, DC a couple of weeks ago, MrConsumer was stopped by a TSA official before entering the waiting line for security. He scrutinized my boarding pass and diverted me to the TSA Pre-Check line. Thinking he made some mistake because perish the thought would MrConsumer pay extra for a pre-screening program to expedite his trip through security, the TSA official said it was a random choice that I was being directed there.

Okay, I thought, maybe this is a heightened security check for random passengers. But how much more could they ask me to remove?

Turns out that pre-check is an expedited process to go through security. No removing of shoes or belts. No taking out your plastic bag of toiletries. No laptop in a separate bin. And no going through the full body scanner. All I had to do was remove metal from my pockets and go through the old-fashioned metal detector.

A check of the TSA website reveals that the TSA Pre-Check program is indeed a system being rolled out across the country. It is currently available at seven airlines, including American, Delta, United, and US Airways in selected cities. They have a secret formula to figure out who is harmless enough to let through security with only minimal screening (and clearly the system isn’t working too well if they let MrConsumer through ).

How do you know if you have been selected to cut the long line, and go express through security?


TSA Pre-Check

Look right on your boarding pass in most cases for that designation.

Based on the details found at the TSA Pre-Check program website you do have to pay $85 for a five year expedited “pass” through security. So maybe the TSA is taking a page from product manufacturers and offering a free sample to random passengers in the hope that they will buy into the program.

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  1. You sat in row 13!!! Not me.

    Comment by linda D — November 25, 2013 @ 6:26 am
  2. I have gotten the TSA Pre-Check my last 3 flights. No complaints here!

    Comment by Patt — November 25, 2013 @ 6:56 am
  3. Sometimes it is random. At MCI, the TSA gave Pre-Check vouchers to every third passenger in line. This is a way to speed the security lines while mitigating risk. There are several threads on and similar frequent traveler sites about this topic.

    Comment by Marc — November 25, 2013 @ 8:39 am
  4. Not to encourage civil disobedience, but I haven’t taken out my baggie of liquids for the last few years (20+ flights) and no one asked me to remove it, noticed, or said a word about it.

    Comment by Wally Baloo — November 25, 2013 @ 9:54 am
  5. what a pleasant surprise. I started asking the TSA agents for business cards and wrote a few thank you for doing your job letters. last time thru Shannon airport the agent remembered us!

    Comment by tom gauvin — November 25, 2013 @ 2:06 pm
  6. I was surprised when my 55 year old mom was pulled aside at LAX last week to go through the pre check line. We didn’t realize her boarding pass had it listed until TSA pointed it out. They said it was random. I hadn’t heard of that before… Only the pre-approved route where you pay. She got through in 1 minute with no line while I took 15 min.

    Comment by Justin — November 25, 2013 @ 4:08 pm
  7. Wait, you can PAY for less security hassles? Is the TSA trying to prevent incidents or shake-down passengers for more money?

    Comment by Wayne R — November 25, 2013 @ 4:49 pm
  8. The system is still backwards. 99.99999% of passengers are not a risk, and TSA knows it. They should concentrate on those who are, and leave the rest of us alone. The boarding process should not be dumbed down to some sort of lottery. Asking us to pay for an “expedited” pass is ridiculous. It’s like one more nickel-and-dime airline fee, which will surely be increased over time. The bottom line is either you’re okay to go through or you’re not. This dog-and-pony security theater has gone on long enough.

    Comment by CC Ryder — December 3, 2013 @ 7:43 pm
  9. Well, well…look what just hit the media:

    “The TSA says someone who shows up at an enrollment center will spend about 10 minutes (not counting any wait time) signing up for the program. It requires a background check, fingerprints and an $85 fee for a five-year enrollment. A passport, required for some other programs, is not necessary.

    “Members will receive a “known traveler number” to provide to airlines when making a reservation. That makes the traveler eligible for the speedy line at 102 big airports or when flying with seven airlines, including all the major ones.”

    The major airlines already know who I am. I’ve been in their Frequent Flyer programs for over 20 years. But choosing not to pay $85 and provide the TSA with fingerprints and my background information is apparently now “reason for suspicion.”

    This is not about security. It’s about fear, intimidation and data mining.

    Comment by CC Ryder — December 3, 2013 @ 11:41 pm
  10. Seems to me that with all the fees we pay to the govt for various things, it should be a given that we can all apply for this expedited service.
    For example, now with Obamacare, maybe they have to do a background check (I’m not sure) in which case they can automatically send this code number to anyone who asks, as long as you pass the background check (and have the option to find out about the denial if that happens.)

    Comment by RobS — December 7, 2013 @ 8:41 pm
  11. I took a Southwest flight from Philadelphia to Midway in Chicago I got the same treatment and there was nothing about pre check on my ticket but I did have to go through a body scanner. Also from Albuquerque to Denver was even faster as I was rushed through the old type machines as if some kind of royalty was just behind me. I rarely fly so it’s not worth me paying $85 in any case.

    Comment by phil — December 9, 2013 @ 2:17 pm
  12. On a recent trip to Colorado, my ticket was printed with a TSA Pre Check. I was able to go through the Pre Check line while my wife had to use the regular screening procedure. I thought the experience was great. I plan on my wife and I applying for the TSA 5 year program for both of us. Thanks TSA for giving me the opportunity to check out the program!

    Comment by Barry Kaufman — December 14, 2013 @ 9:21 pm

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