Is TSA PreCheck becoming a joke?

1459228_10101714748332533_1349385224_n[1]If you’re following me on Twitter or Instagram then you know I was in San Francisco last week to attend a European travel conference. I flew up on American Airlines and I noticed that in both airports there were travelers in the TSA PreCheck line that had no clue what they were doing or how they got there. I later learned that the airlines and TSA are giving the special pre-clearance security to a bunch of travelers who aren’t frequent fliers or PreCheck members.

I actually noticed this same trend the week before when I took my dad to Vegas for his birthday and he was given the privilege himself and he’s neither a frequent traveler nor signed up to PreCheck. He’s 85 and not a security threat, but in San Francisco there were a couple of travelers in front of me in their late twenties who wouldn’t stop high-fiving each other for not having to take their shoes off or laptops or liquids out. I asked if they were PreCheck members or frequent travelers and they both said no.  Then just a few minutes ago a friend of mine posted this photo above from LAX saying “And today I have never appreciated this more. Thank you TSA, I heart you and my 5 min security line while the airport is a messsss this AM.”

I’m not sure if what’s going on with PreCheck is good or bad—but what do you think?

Johnny Jet

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Johnny Jet

I used to be afraid to fly and at times even leave the house! I conquered my fear (long story) and now I travel to 20+ countries a year sharing my firsthand knowledge, tips and deals with friends, family and readers. Please sign up to our free newsletters and tell your friends!

32 Comments on "Is TSA PreCheck becoming a joke?"

  1. I noticed the same thing in my last two flights. Finally the TSA agent was telling people they did not have to remove shoes and take computers out. It was if I was in the regular line. I fly almost every week and I have to say, it was a bit frustrating. With all things travel I just roll with it.

    • Dallas Love Filed TSA precheck one still has to take the laptop and liquids out, but can keep shoes and belts on. I will never understand why there isnt one rule for all airports.

  2. I like TSA precheck Delta asked me and I applied online. It really saved time at LAX

  3. After 12 years of security theater it sounds as if it could be a step back toward sanity in air travel security.

  4. TSA doesn’t know what it’s doing. SURPRISE. I paid $100 for “Global Entry” which offers expedited re-entry into U.S. With that comes Pre-Check. That has saved me many times now…particularly at busy airports. But it appears TSA now is using Pre-Check line as a relief valve during busy travel periods. I suppose that’s OK, but it makes the pre-check less valuable to travelers. And now…I’ve come to count on Pre-check to claim some of my time back from the MESS that is the TSA checkpoint. Maybe I should just learn to fly and get a job as an airline pilot. Then I can zip through the line. HA. Kidding.

  5. It could be that TSA is overwhelmed with travelers, or they are doing more passenger profiling, or alternating security protocols a bit to keep people unsure TSA inspections.

  6. If this becomes a developing trend what good are they? Taxpayers are just paying for another bloated, ineffective service!

  7. Just flew out of LAX last night (Delta). My husband and I have Global Entry, but my daughter who had a flight to another city did not. She made it through the regular line about 15 minutes ahead of us from the TSA pre-check line. There was a huge family with strollers, etc in the line ahead of us. By the way, both flights my husband still had to remove his belt and take all the change out of his pockets.

    Still, it’s nice to not have to remove shoes, laptops, etc.

  8. I’m a bit sad that I’ve paid for a service being overloaded with those who haven’t paid for the same thing.

    • I’m dark haired, dark eyed, with an olive complexion. Though I am Hispanic, I am frequently mistaken for being of Middle Eastern descent. Doubt I will ever get anything but a pat-down and an “excuse me Miss, could you step over here, please?” when it comes to airport security. Happens EVERY TIME. Random, my a$$. And please, don’t regale me with “but I’m white and always get pulled for security screenings!” There’s probably a reason you’re being targeted, too, and you just don’t realize it.

  9. I applied and paid for Global Entry. It’s great coming back into the country but I have found it to be useless in terms of expediting security in the U.S. For one thing I don’t know how I would prove I have it when I travel domestically unless I took my passport with me. They give you a card when you get approved but I was given a stern lecture that that card could only be used when in car driving from the US to Canada! Maybe this isn’t a program for blondes……..

    • I haven’t actually used it yet, but at the Global Entry screening they told me to use the PASS ID # from the card when booking my ticket and then when the boarding pass is printed out, it will have that number or other indication that you can use the TSA Pre-Check line. There is usually a person at that line who will let you in if that number is on your boarding pass. You shouldn’t need your passport. I have travel plans next month and I was kind of excited about getting to use the pre-check line but it doesn’t sound like it will be that much better based on the comments to this article

  10. When we fly to Europe we seem to go thru security so much quicker both arriving and leaving,maybe we should look at there’s or beef up at different times just to keep the bad guys of base

  11. We just flew out of Portland, OR this morning. Everyone was sent through the pre-check line. Shoes, jackets, and belts on and nothing taken out of bags. It was 6am, no lines yet.

  12. If they are circumventing previous security measures in random cases now, I guess that proves that the previous security measures were just a lie/security theater.

  13. To answer the question posed – yes precheck has become a joke. I fly out of SFO almost every week. As a United 1K and having Global Entry getting precheck status was easy. And it was wonderful and worked very well until about six weeks ago when passengers from the premier line started being funneled into the precheck lane. Off come the shoes, belts,out come the laptops and there goes the expediency of precheck. Now precheck is even more frustrating than the regular premier line and takes almost as long.
    This change may not seem to be a big deal for most travelers and it wouldn’t be a problem if everyone knew the rules of the game but for many of us who schlep through these lines a minimum of twice a week, it is frustrating. For what it is worth I did write United and expressed my opinion.

  14. Can perhaps we get an official response from the TSA on this point?

  15. Happens to me all the time in ATL these days. Used to be that I could get through the Pre-Check queue in less than 2 minutes. Recently, they’ve started letting uniformed military AND THEIR FAMILIES in the queue and others that have no clue as to why they got in that line and no “instruction card” so they get to the front and take off their shoes, remove their belts and jackets, take out their laptop, etc. which just makes it a longer wait for those of us who know what we’re doing! I’ve tried to tell people that they don’t have to remove everything but they just ignore me and sandbag the queue.

    While I’m less concerned about uniformed military getting in that line, what makes their family so special? They should be vetted just like those if us who PAID for the Global Entry “cavity exam!” I don’t get to take my family through the PreCheck queues, so why should anyone else?

    Another example of the TSA taking liberties with our safety to shirk their responsibility of doing their own job!

    • “they’ve started letting uniformed military AND THEIR FAMILIES in the queue”

      Wow. That’s the end of the world as we know it. I suspect from the self-absorbed tone of your email you pay little attention to the would outside your narrow reality, but let me educate you. As a member of the Coast Guard we undergo a fairly substantial background check and are required to have a secret clearance at all times. We are also Federal Law Enforcement Officers. I have worked with many Federal Agencies (including TSA) and I can tell you we are MUCH more diligently vetted than you were through the ‘Trusted Traveler’ program. TSA only allows family members 13 and under to accompany a military member though pre-check. All others must go through regular security procedures. Insinuating that the children of military members are somehow less trustworthy and more dangerous than those who have paid to have access to pre-check is demeaning and churlish.

      I am sorry that the members of the military and their families have inconvenienced you during your travels. We will do our best to stay out of your way while you get on with your (obviously much more) important business.

  16. I thought the whole point of PreCheck was that travelers were pre-screened? I am a Global Entry member, did the application and interview, etc. Why do people who did not do that get randomly accepted? Makes no sense to me.

  17. Flew SAN to MFR United had Pre Check no one in line breezed through did not have to remove shoes, belt, cell phone nothing. Did not ask for it United gave it to me just noticed it on my pass when I saw it I though of Johnny Only fly untied 6 times a year. Thank you Tom

  18. Fellow traveler | December 8, 2013 at 6:55 pm | Reply

    I saw a similar sign in MCO airport today along the lines of “you’ve been selected for TSA pre-check….” I was highly annoyed because the security person wasn’t monitoring or helping some of the folks in the pre-check line by telling the what they should or should not do (eg some guy was talking off his belt, jacket, and shoes!!!) Also my backpack got pulled off because they said you cannot have two laptops in the same bag and re-ran it which held me back. It also happened to the guy behind me who had a laptop and iPad in same bag. I am really curious if this is a new rule coming out (as I travel often with 2 laptops and never had to do this otherwise I would have efficiently & appropriately placed my stuff in the bin to avoid a re-scan) or Florida making up their own rules and living the slow life.

  19. Just checked into ontario ca ap with a tsa preck clearance
    They give you an orange card and tell you to talke this with you through the X-ray clearance
    All with a smile of course, not
    Once in the X-ray line you need to remove you laptop ,shoes and watch , anything metal
    Oh yeah and don’t forget your orange card as you go through the X-ray machine area
    What a joke! That’s our government sponsored security, no accountability
    Asked what the purpose of the preck clearance was and all you get is blank stares
    Left phoenix earlier in the day, had tsa preck clearance and did not have to remove anything
    What’s the deal? What a joke and inconvenience , carry the orange sign, very sad
    So if you get tsa preck clearance in ontario it means nothing……

    • in other words you were given a card with instructions on it and didn’t follow them? I ask you where there any TSA PRE√ signs in the line. Knowing ONT airport myself I know that Terminal does not offer TSA PRE√ due to low passenger throughput. Normally only one line is available so they allow you to hang on to an instruction lamanated card. By god it has pictures on it. Next time I go through I’ll take a picture of it so you can see it for yourself unlike the first time you went through holding the rest of us up. At least at ONT it is all smiles and thank you and have a good flight. In closing grow some skin follow instructions or join the others riding grayhound.

  20. Confusion continues with precheck. I had precheck on a Southwest flight and then on another flight I did not have it. My husband had precheck on his boarding pass and he is not a frequent flyer. A family ahead of me in line at Midway had children with precheck on their boarding pass but the parents did not. It is a bad joke.

  21. TSA Pre gets you through airport security faster – now you can sign up
    directly.

  22. I wonder how many of these comments are left by people licking their wounds in an airport bar.

    I resent the “Special People” term. They didn’t charge $5000 for Pre. Save the Libertarian attitude. They charged $85, and in my case, an hour drive to Carson, CA. (Had to make an appt a month in advance, which by the way, holds no weight when you arrive. 12:00 appointment – got in at 12:45) Once in, appointment took 3 minutes (2:30 of which were spent running my credit card, and 30 seconds recording my biometrics). As far as the staff – think DMV, but more…fat, stupid, lazy.

    I, much like many I am sure, spent the time to do this, not to become Special and superior, not to grin at those in the queue as we pass, but because we do it several times a week, every week, all year long. It was an investment of time spent on the front end to ultimately save time on the back end.

    No one with any opinion worth listening to, will argue that TSA’s security “measures” do anything for actual security. If Pre can leave the laptop in the bag, guess what – they can see through EVERYONE’S laptop. If I can leave my shoes on, they can see through shoes.

    Here’s the situation: it’s been over a decade. The TSA has imposed their theater on us, with every measure simply being reactive to already successful terrorist attacks. They know their measures don’t make a difference, and it’s time to save resources. Shoes, laptops, liquids – they slow everything down and cost money, so it’s time to cut back. BUT, like anything the government does, lets find a way to charge Americans for it. Why are you charging $85? This saves YOU, the TSA, money and resources! While true, lets try a different pitch: want to skip the gloved finger? For $85, you don’t have to deal with US anymore! Pretty good deal huh? Ridiculous.

    Ultimately, this will be a thing of the past. TSA will be gone (it’s happening already.) Millions of the degenerates they hired will be back on unemployment, costing us money in different ways. Till then us Special People will have to come to terms with the fact that this was never in place to make our lives easier.

  23. Yes lately it’s been totally ridiculous, it appears every week the ‘Pre’ line is longer in Atlanta’s airport. This morning it was just as long as the standard line on the South(I went over to the North). I have Nexus/Global entry and while it’s valuable when I travel international, I had become dependent on it to save me time when getting to the airport; this however hasn’t been the case lately and this morning I almost missed my flight. So all in all, it’s not exactly ‘fair’ that they are letting those who didn’t pay use a service we pay for, even worst however (as many of you have noted) is the fact that these travelers often and usually diminish the quality of the service we are paying for because they have no clue of why they are in the line and what to do/not do. So they get a better free experience and we get a reduce service on something we are paying for.

    Although I’m sure they(TSA) are aware of all of this, chances are they don’t give a darn!

  24. Please amend your article. The statement “I later learned that the airlines and TSA are giving the special..” is false. Airlines are told by TSA who is and is not eligible, the airlines are not making choices here.

  25. For these people that are supposed experts in security my mind is boggled. How does doing all these background checks and finger printings which are paid for get bypassed by random people who are let through that did jack?! That’s a major security flaw and disguising it under “random tripping up the terrorists” is ironic. Also isn’t it a denial of due process if I am denied on my application by something unreasonable and I cannot defend my case? I know it’s voluntary but I should have a right to know who and what is done with my personal information. It makes me sick that I have to pay for this broken system.

  26. Was TSA Pre-Approved – I had put my boarding pass into my purse (which was approved) and going thru the scanner…went thru the body scanner – they told me to take off my Skeetcher shoes….After going thru the scanner, i was frisked! What the heck!!!!

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