For the past several months, I’ve been really pushing CLEAR, TSA PreCheck and elite status. Just one of these memberships can drastically reduce your wait times at the airport. That’s always been important but never more so than during a pandemic since most people are trying to avoid crowds.

For those who don’t travel very often, elite status helps with many things, including speeding up the check-in process at the airport and the other two memberships work for security.

CLEAR is a private biometrics company with a partnership with the US government to transform your eyes and face into touchless ID so you can bypass those long, slow lines at over 50 U.S. airports, as well as some sports and entertainment stadiums/arenas and venues (here’s a list; make sure you check not only the airport but terminal, too) by quickly scanning your irises and ticket. Another good reason to get CLEAR is that you don’t need to take your driver’s license out. Tip: Here’s a promo code to get two months free of CLEAR.

TSA PreCheck is a government-run membership program that allows travelers to move through the expedited security lines in the United States. Tip: Here’s how to get TSA PreCheck for free and better yet, Global Entry, which includes TSA Pre but expedites your return back to the US from international travels.

Ever since travel returned in March by the masses, security lines have been much longer during peak travel times and days. I’ve been recommending CLEAR and TSA PreCheck like many travel experts to bypass the long lines. However, I think the secret might be out because a frequent traveler, Christina Warren (aka @Film_Girl) I follow tweeted: “Imagine missing a flight b/c you were only in the precheck line an hour early. Fingers crossed.”

Christina checked into Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport South Terminal using the Swarm app at 7:10am on Monday, November 1 after she got in the TSA PreCheck line. I followed up with Christina since she tweeted that she was using both CLEAR and TSA PreCheck and the line was “just nuts.” Christina said she also has elite status on Delta and it took her 55 minutes to clear security and was the last one on the plane so she just made it.

The moral of this story is just because you have CLEAR, TSA PreCheck and/or elite status, don’t expect to cruise through security like in the past. Especially with the holidays coming up and the influx of foreign travelers, when the US border opens on November 8.

Combine that with the fact that the TSA is understaffed and will most likely be even more understaffed when the federal vaccine mandate kicks in on November 22. Last month, CNN reported that only 60% of TSA officers were fully vaccinated and I can’t imagine the other 40% will get vaxxed in time, if at all since their job isn’t a high-paying one unlike pilots.

So this is your warning to show up to the airport extra early, even if you have CLEAR, TSA PreCheck and/or elite status because if you miss your flight, there aren’t going to be many (if any) empty seats available on the next flight(s). You could be stuck for hours or days.

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29 Comments On "Warning To Travelers With CLEAR, TSA PreCheck and Elite Status"
  1. Gail Anderson Cywinski|

    Another point of concern with TSA. My husband was an early user of Global Entry (there were only 5 airports offering this service at the time). This past week, he was stopped at TSA for not having it so noted on his ticket. So back to the end of the long line for non-members.

    We did a little checking and yes, TSA will spot check flyers. We suspect it may have a link to the numbers in lines plus fewer employees. It was annoying and time consuming. We will definitely check for TSA notations in the future!

    1. Iammclovin|

      They’ve been doing this from the start. Your husband had just lucked out up until now. If your pass isn’t marked as precheck, you’re just not allowed to go through precheck. I’ve had 50/50 success just checking in again and getting the pass reprinted.

  2. Iammclovin|

    TSA is what you work after you’ve been declined from every other security job, including mall cop and school cops. 18 and US citizenship is pretty much the only requirement, which is less requirement than most fast food chains are requiring these days since most have a “no visible tats” policy. So there’s zero reason why the number of vaxxed shouldn’t be 100% once the deadline comes and goes. Dont want to follow the requirements, find another job and hire another clown off the streets. Simple.

  3. Bob|

    If she had clear, shouldn’t be in regular tsa precheck line. One of their ppl will walk you forward unless something changed

  4. Christina Warren|

    I’ll add some additional details (thanks Johnny for the blog!) — the line for normal non-PreCheck Clear was easily one of the longest I have ever witnessed — and at ATL, I’ve witnessed some long lines. And at PreCheck Clear, I honestly probably should have gone through the normal PreCheck line since they had a limited number of Clear staffers and had to bring people up in groups. Keep that in mind, even if you have both, that Clear PreCheck isn’t always faster. By the time I figured this out, it was too late to switch lines.

    There was also a shortage of operators for the actual bag screening, which made going through security much longer than usual. I was probably in line for 10 minutes to get through security itself, just because of how long it took for them to scan bags/how many passengers were in line.

    I’ll also add that Delta in ATL has gone to an almost entirely self-baggage check system. This is probably fine for most people, but I’m a Diamond Medallion and am used to just going to the Diamond desk at Delta hubs to check my bag if I’m checking one (which I was in this case). There was no Diamond/First/Delta One line, just a massive Sky Priority line for people to drop off their self-checked/printed bags. Again, I appreciate that Delta wants to streamline the baggage process, but I’m a little miffed that it is seemingly hurting elites when doing it (why spend so much money and fly so much each year if you have to wait in the same line as everyone who has Sky Priority with a credit card?). In the future, I’ll probably do curbside check-in when I can (I didn’t have any cash on me for tipping this time).

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Thank you for adding the additional details

  5. John Baggott|

    Atalanta is a beast as basically everyone goes through one security area, I am Clear and PreCheck and the three times this year I have gone through Atlanta the Clear PreCheck line has been long but not as long as PreCheck only and the give up hope security line, Atlanta is always allow 3-2 hr airport for me.

  6. Christina Warren|

    Yes, they will — but the line for the Clear with PreCheck line was still so long, it was 55 minutes to get through security. That was the point of my initial tweets — the line was so heinous for PreCheck in general (and even for those who also had Clear, where as I said in a previous comment, I think it was actually worse), I was actually concerned I’d miss my flight. It was a solid 15 minutes before I even got to the breakoff point for Clear/normal PreCheck, again — the line wrapped around Terminal South and was hundreds of passengers deep. Again, this was PreCheck.

    I had a glance at the the normal NON PreCheck Clear line and it was like what you would expect for a general boarding line during peak peak travel season (and this was 7am on a Monday), meaning it would probably be 90 minutes minimum to even get to security. I don’t even know what GA looked like, but again, this was 7am on a Monday.

  7. Giorgio|

    I was there that Monday morning and at 7am and it took me about 45 minutes to get through TSA pre check. I travel out of ATL on about a weekly basis and I have never seen it that backed up before. It may have something to do with the Braves game the night before.

  8. Aaron Timberlake|

    Atlanta airport is in a league of it’s own. Definitely having PREx and Clear helps alot!

  9. Jeff|

    Thanks for the warning and the good information. Regarding the comment about TSA not being “high paying”? It most definitely is for those guys. No way any of them can quit and do better. Most will be rushing to get the shot.

  10. Sricharan R Muddasani|

    I have travelled through Boston, Atlanta, DFW, Los Angeles, etc. and so far Clear with Pre-check has never failed me. I am sipping through the lines in less than 5 min. If you travel early or late night you don’t need it as lines are less. During the day when lines are huge, including TSA Pre-check lines (ever since word got out about the lines), Clear has never failed me. Scanned my optical and/or fingerprint and am through in less than 5 min. That is as long as your boarding pass is valid.

  11. Michelle|

    To compare TSA screeners to mall cops is hilarious! ATL airport is the busiest airport and not once have we heard about firearms or any threats getting pass security. So hats off to the Screeners. PreCheck/Clear have their perks but they are not always guaranteed. With Covid so many people have been exposed to the programs meaning more guest to join the line in the near future. COVID has had a significant affect on the flight industry.

  12. Oscar Feliciano|

    I’ve flown four times this summer between Newark and San Juan and TSA Precheck was never open. I had to show a slip just so that I wouldn’t get harassed into removing my footwear, and only twice did they open the Precheck scanner to let me through.

  13. AQ|

    ATL Hartsfield is THE ABSOLUTE WORST. It doesn’t really matter if it’s peak time or not. They are rude aggressive and disorganized. The best alternative is just to arrive EARLIER.

  14. Jeff G.|

    I realize that what I’m about to say is probably not going to earn me any friends on this site but Ms. Warren’s comments and attitude reek of privilege. For starters, she’s flying out of THE busiest airport in the US and she’s complaining about one time when she had to wait in line, even though she still made her flight. Second, when you sign up for CLEAR or TSA PreCheck, there are no guarantees about how long you’ll have to wait in line or even that the lines will be shorter than the non-CLEAR/PreCheck lines. (I have PreCheck and this happened to me once, but I certainly didn’t tweet about it or have an article written about my experience.) Third, Ms. Warren certainly knows that her loyalty status with Delta or any other airline has no direct bearing on how long it takes her to get through security. CLEAR/PreCheck lines are for people who’ve met the program requirements and paid a fee, nothing else. Fourth, despite all of the above, Ms. Warren is not only referred to in the article as an “elite” but then self-identifies as an elite in her comments. Flying more than the rest of us doesn’t make you elite, Ms. Warren. Rather you’re simply a frequent flyer, a loyal customer, a repeat patron. She asks, “Why spend so much money and fly so much each year if you have to wait in the same line as everyone (else)…? Uh, most everybody I know flies to get to a destination for work or pleasure in the shortest possible amount of time, whereas Ms. Warren’s question implies that she flies just to keep/maintain her coveted Diamond Medallion status so she can continue to feel that she’s “elite.”

  15. KW|

    I wonder if the issue is more due to a lack of TSA workers rather than more travelers having TSA Pre-Check.

    When I went through TSA last weekend, my Pre-Check line took much longer than usual. It was due to having only two screening terminals open, so they were sending non-Pre-Check travelers to the Pre-Check line. Meaning that we had to wait behind so many people who still had to do the usual strip/unpack before going through the detector (and then pack everything up once they were through) and it really slowed everything down.

  16. Ash|

    I work for TSA. I enjoy helping people through the process as quickly as possible. The comments disparaging these hard working people are discouraging and inappropriate.

  17. TerriB|

    This article cracked me up! Just because you have Clear, TSA pre-check or Global entry doesn’t mean you don’t have to get to the airport early. I frequently fly domestically and internationally for work. I have Global entry. I don’t have clear, because I can pull my driver’s license or passport out of my purse no problem! I have arrived at the airport with no lines and sailed right through security. I have also arrived and been in the security line forever.
    If I have to travel to Atlanta, I fly to Birmingham Alabama and drive. Tells you how much I don’t like flying in or out of ATL!!
    On the guy who got kick to the back of the line. You have to enter your trusted traveler number when you book your flight. Then it will show up in the corner of your ticket.

    Really great article!!

  18. Keisa|

    I just recently traveled to a TSA paid for training in South Carolina as I am a TSA employee and I have pre check and was still not pre check. I had to go through the standard line. It’s not always guaranteed to be pre check. I think mine was partly due to my name change to my married name. Either way it’s a good idea to get there a little earlier especially when flying in the morning. I almost missed my flight and I was 2 hours early.

  19. JR|

    I work for one of the majors and we just received notification that the deadline for the vaccine is now extended to January 4, 2022 per new government announcement. Looks like they were reading the tea leaves and finally came to the conclusion that November 24 was not a good day for a deadline!

  20. Dorie|

    I don’t want someone or some machine scanning my eyes or mapping my face for ant reason. This is to get you used to the idea so it can be done anywhere for anything. No thank you.

  21. MrsSmith|

    I think the moral of this story is “Your spoiled azz ain’t the only one with express services” Go to the airport 2 to 3 hrs b4 your flight. You and the rest of the WORLD signed up for express so yes the line in front of you are of folks that are special too… and to those with such an issue with TSA…..please do us all a favor and take a bus.

  22. Tom|

    This article is off base. As someone who travels 7-10 flights per week I can tell you that TSA moves along the lines rather quickly these days. The issue in Atlanta is the new scanner/ X-ray machines which are horrible. They are automated pieces of garbage. I have gone through the metal detectors and then had to wait over a half hour for my suitcase. Replace those machines with functional ones and 90% of Atlanta’s issues will be taken care of

  23. Kim Simpson|

    I fly out of Denver every week which is the 3rd busiest airport in the world currently. Sadly, for us here the lines are long due to ongoing construction as well as increase in travelers. Not to mention that not all parking option’s have reopened . I have precheck and clear and thank goodness it has never failed me. Longest in line is 5 minutes. I fly out early Saturday morning and I will be arriving earlier than normal. And the gentleman’s comment regarding Ms Warrens “elite” status. I don’t think it was stated to separate her as an “elitist” simply more as a point of reference as some frequent flyer programs refer to the higher status guest as elite members. I for one, appreciate the extra service I receive and I have flown a quick turn around trip to maintain said status.

  24. Sherlock|

    “ For the past several months, I’ve been really pushing CLEAR, TSA PreCheck and elite status.”
    “ I’ve been recommending CLEAR and TSA PreCheck like many travel experts…”
    “However, I think the secret might be out…”

    Ya think?

  25. Clown|

    IAMMCLOVIN, I am one of those TSA losers that you speak of. After 22 years in the USMC, I retired and was hired by TSA. After 5 years working in and around the screening force, I was promoted to Inspector and have inspected airlines’ security procedures and assessed airports security measures all over the world. This loser job has provided me the opportunity to travel to over 100 countries as a professional, representing the United States of America. Thank God the mall didn’t hire this clown.

    What did you do for your Country today?

  26. KR|

    can’t tell you how many times I have bypassed the TSA pre and clear in ATL and got thru faster in regular security. EVERYONE in ATL is an elite with TSA pre, so the line is longer. There is another trick in ATL, but I’ll keep that for myself.

  27. NoFlyGirl|

    Thank you IAMMCLOVIN…. That comment about ‘Clowns’ really chaffed my behind!! As a retired F/A with AA (35 yrs.) I always make it a point to Thank the TSA staff for their hard work and tireless efforts in keeping us safe. Will continue to do so every time I’m traveling.
    As for all the whining and complaining on this page……I can only offer you all this sage advice from my late husband….”If you were driving, versus flying, where would you be right now??” In other words, try to reflect on the fact that you’re able to partake in the miracle of flight….

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