I just went through security for the first time at Albany International Airport (it’s not exactly an international airport; I only saw domestic flights on the departures board but I believe some flights used to fly into Canada.) The security line had about a dozen people in it and as I made my way to the TSA PreCheck lane, an airport worker (not the TSA), yelled at me and said I was going the wrong way, as there’s only one security line. “Even for passengers with TSA PreCheck?” I asked. He answered yes, but said I would still get the benefits PreCheck affords passengers. I was thinking to myself, ‘isn’t one of the benefits to get a shorter line?’ but I wasn’t in the mood for arguing and I wasn’t in a hurry.
In the regular line, I noticed the TSA agent handing nine out of 10 of the passengers a laminated TSA PreCheck card that stated that passengers did not have to “take off your shoes, belt, headwear or lighter outer garment.” But the next paragraph read that you must “divest your laptop computer and 3-1-1 compliant bag of liquids and must place them in a divesting bin.”
Divest? Really? Do you think most passengers know what divest means? I had to look it up. And worse yet, all the passengers around me had no idea what TSA PreCheck was. Now, I’m not even sure what the point of having TSA PreCheck is. Aren’t you supposed to be “pre-checked” with an interview? According to the TSA website, the PreCheck program “allows low-risk travelers to experience expedited, more efficient security screening at participating U.S. airport checkpoints for domestic and international travel.” But in order to receive this privilege, you must apply, undergo a background check, provide fingerprints, have an interview, etc. Only once approved and granted a Known Traveler Number, should you then be able to use the TSA PreCheck line.
So – what gives if TSA agents are randomly handing out TSA PreCheck cards and what does this mean for the safety of passengers and the security process as a whole?
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