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TSA PreCheck Lines Getting Longer – But It Is Still OK

TSA PreCheck
Written by Charlie

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TSA PreCheck is the program that is allows trusted travelers the ability to move quickly through the TSA security lines. These are like the super-expedited lines, better than elite/first class security lines. The reason for it is that travelers do not need to take anything out of their carry-ons (like travel liquids, laptops, electronics, etc) or take off their belts, shoes, or light jackets. As one TSA officer said to me, it is like travel pre-9/11. While not quite like that (you still cannot take large containers of liquid through), it certainly does speed the security process.

TSA PreCheckWhen the program first opened, it was restricted to select frequent flyers in certain domestic programs. As the program expanded, it became available to all the airlines and included those individuals who were part of the Trusted Traveler program (for Global Entry and NEXUS program participants), even if they did not have elite status. Now, anyone can apply to be a part of the program. The application costs $85 and you are not guaranteed acceptance into the program (you may be denied based on the application or background check). The $85 is non-refundable. Of course, if you apply for Global Entry and receive that, you will automatically be enrolled into TSA PreCheck with your Known Traveler Number (KTN). The application fee for Global Entry is $100 but offers the expedited re-entry into the US at airports (read more about it here)

TSA PreCheck Lines Getting LongerTSA PreCheck

Since the program has opened for entry to the traveling masses, frequent travelers have noticed that the lines for PreCheck at participating airports are growing longer – especially at hub airports. On a recent trip from Chicago, I was in a line (waiting for the lane to open very early in the morning) of 40 travelers. The elite security line next to us (the line for elite travelers or those passengers traveling in business/first class) only had 4 people in it. I had access to the elite line as well, but I chose to stay in the PreCheck lane (granted, I was only number 3 in the PreCheck line). At the same time, I could have gone to the other side and the general security line and entered that (open) line. Why did I choose to wait in PreCheck and why didn’t it bother me?

Convenience

If two security lines were equal and seemed to be moving at the same pace, I still prefer the PreCheck line. The reason is for the simplicity of getting through the line. I do not have to take off my clothing items (jacket, belt, shoes) and I do not have to take anything out of my bags. Even if my line was a bit slower, I am still inclined to choose this line because of the pure convenience. Not only that, but there are times that I travel with a lot of cables and such. When I am in a regular security line, I always have to have the bag go through again or be gone through by hand. When I go through the PreCheck line, my bag is never subjected to another scan or a personal search.

Family

When traveling with my family, it is a huge convenience! When we were traveling through JFK last month, we all had TSA Pre on our boarding passes so went through that lane. Even though small children do not need to take of their shoes in the regular lines, it is still so helpful to just be able to throw bags on the belt and not worry about taking things out and putting back while managing the children through the area. Again, if the Pre line was longer than the regular line (which I have not had happen yet), I would still opt for the Pre line.

Why the lines are long

The biggest problem right now, and one of the reasons that the lines are getting longer, is that there are fewer machines and personnel working the Pre lines. So, even though passengers move through pretty fast, there is still the delay if someone is having trouble with a bag on the belt or something like that. With only one machine, everyone is held up. Part of that problem is that I am seeing passengers in the Pre line who seem to have no idea what it means for them and what to do. So, they begin to take their stuff off, which slows everything down, and ask what they need to take out, which is something they should know if they have applied the program. Fortunately, some airports are getting better about it and the agents are shouting out instructions to those in the Pre line. Hopefully, passengers will become more familiar with it.

How about you? Have you found that the lines are longer for you? Have you enjoyed the triple beep of TSA PreCheck yet? 🙂 For more information about joining the program and who can participate, check it out here.

Editorial Note - Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

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About the author

Charlie

Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.

8 Comments

  • The ones who don’t know what to do in the PreCheck line – in my experience is this because the idiocy of TSA means they’re randomly deciding to send people down this lane (DEFINITELY doing this in PHX) negating the advantages of a program designed for people who know what they signed up for (and in most cases paid for).

  • Love the tree beeps.

    Hate the lines. For example MCO needs to be destroyed and reconfigured! TSA PreCheck shouldn’t take 35-40 minutes. No need for families or non FFs to be there. They slow the process to a crawl.

  • I hope that airlines will soon catch on and make an elite + precheck lane. As I have seen in CLT and other airports, as the number of Precheck pax rises, so too are the number of lanes. It may never be the old glory days of no lines, but as it displaces “traditional” security, the lines will move with a regular and predictable pace

  • Numerous times now, at PHX, SEA and ORD I’ve gone through PreCheck while my g/f went through either the elite or standard lane – depending on qualifications – and because of the people who should NOT be in the PreCheck lane slowing things down, my g/f was waiting for me by the time I got through. The system is failing.

    Furthermore, while I applaud CBP including automated systems that are faster for non-Global Entry citizens, it’s a bit discouraging when my g/f got through passport control just as quickly as me in a GE lane at ORD and SEA. Unless one travels a LOT, it almost negates the value of the $100 fee (assuming it wasn’t reimbursed).

  • I couldn’t find a way to send this directly to Charles – I’m sorry this is in the wrong spot – Wanted to share this- Amazon is currently running a discount on running shoes through June 14 – Use code “RUNSHO14” to save 20%

  • I wouldn’t have a problem with it if the randomly selected people had any clue what they were doing, but the last three times I have been through, there have been people taking liquids and laptops out of their bag, only to be told they didn’t have to. Earlier this week the lady in front of me spent at least 60 seconds asking questions about the program. What stays in, what comes out, what comes off, what stays on, etc.. In the grand scheme of things, 45 seconds isn’t much, but it is still annoying that clueless people are selected for precheck.

  • Leaving Oak this weekend, TSA let everyone in line to go through pre check. The silliness was that my girlfriend and I lined up in the pre check line and our friend almost beat us through security in the normal line in the pre check line! I suspect that airports are trying to encourage folks to buy pre check by giving complimentary access to it. I didn’t care too much at the end of the day, but it definitely negated the “benefit” of having pre check.

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