How American Airlines Makes Sure Passengers Get PreCheck When They’re Entitled to PreCheck

Since signing up for Global Entry three years ago I haven’t missed getting PreCheck a single time that I was eligible for it.

  • Flying an airline that doesn’t participate is another matter, although increasingly airlines are participating and even some non-U.S. airlines.

  • When the PreCheck lane is closed you’ll generally get expedited screening — skip the nude-o-scope, leave your freedom baggie in your carry on, don’t take off your shoes. The only difference from PreCheck is you don’t go through a separate lane and have to take out your laptop.

I often hear about flyers with ‘Known Traveler Numbers’ not getting PreCheck. Usually that’s because the number didn’t pass through to the airline’s system properly. Perhaps a booking was made through a travel agent or an online travel site and that number was either entered wrong or the data didn’t push properly.

I’ve had that happen, and I’ve exited the check-in process, entered my number, and gone back through check-in in order to get the TSA PreCheck logo to show up on my board pass.

Scott Mayerowitz reports on a new American Airlines measure to make darned sure that passengers entitled to PreCheck get PreCheck. (Of course the TSA will claim that no one is ‘entitled to’ PreCheck, even if they pay for it, but in practice if the process works correctly then passengers receive it.)

American Airlines has taken the unusual step of vetting all passengers with a known traveler number in their AAdvantage frequent flier profile or reservation through TSA databases 72 hours prior to departure. If those travelers aren’t granted PreCheck in the test run, American sends them an email notifying them of the mismatch and to double check the information.

The first email was sent June 16. During the first week running the system, messages were sent to 11,683 passengers, according to airline spokesman Ross Feinstein.

…”With more and more people applying for TSA PreCheck each day, we have seen many participants who are not receiving TSA PreCheck due to errors,” Feinstein says.

None of the other major carriers are reaching out proactively to customers.

Everyone else says it’s not a problem. But 11,000 customers with mismatches in a week is a problem for those 11,000 even if other airlines don’t see it as statistically a problem for them. So good on American!

PreCheck lines aren’t always short, but they usually still move faster than other lines.

Austin PreCheck June 22

Dallas Fort-Worth PreCheck June 17

Philadelphia PreCheck May 25

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Interesting. I have a paid precheck membership, my KTN is stored in my AA profile, and I pretty much always get precheck (as I should). However, I flew aa on 6/22 and got no such email beforehand and did not get precheck for those flights. I stopped checking for it myself because I’d been getting it every single time for months so I didn’t even realize I didn’t have it until I was about to walk into the security line and glanced at my boarding pass. Let me tell you, when you come to expect it and DON’T get it, it’s super annoying. Weird that I’ve never had problems with aa before and now that they implemented this supposed double check, it failed for me for the first time.

  2. I think I haven’t had Precheck twice since I’ve had it, and I fly a tiny fraction the amount you do. One time I must have beeped out or something, which annoyed me (I’m either a trusted traveler or I’m not, afterall). The other was a bit more bizarre. I was flying with my mom and sister on a return flight from Philadelphia back to Chicago (USAirways, at the time).. I had received Precheck on the way out, and neither my mom nor my sister has it. But, when we checked in for the Philadelphia flight somehow I didn’t have the designation and my mother did. I think my Precheck designation must have transferred to my mother due to some IT snafu. I am a good son and was happy to let my mother use my Precheck. But, still, adds to the “it’s just theater, not really security” feel the TSA has put in place.

  3. I always credit my AA flights to AS, and that is the number that is in the reservation (although my AA profile does have my KTN in it). I wonder if AA’s system is equipped to handle that situation.

  4. I’d like to add that it’s best practice to always use a mobile/electronic boarding pass with PreCheck, as the only time I’ve not been able to use PreCheck is when my paper boarding pass wouldn’t scan. I believe it was a standby pass, so I wasn’t able to produce a mobile one even through the app, however, even though the boarding pass said “PRE CHECK” the agent told me he wasn’t allowed to let me through if the boarding pass would not scan. He also said this was fairly common with barcodes on paper boarding passes…. YMMV.

  5. Too bad pre-check doesn’t work on an AA code share ticket on a BA operated flight.

  6. Only two times not getting it since being approved for Global Entry 3 yrs ago, and one was on an AA ticket because their substandard (imho) Eagle contractor, Mesa, had what was later acknowledged as a known glitch in their interface with the AA system. Hope that is fixed now, but my point is while the measures AA is taking described in the thread here are commendable, it also needs to ride herd on their lovely contractor carriers which are supposed to provide seamless service but don’t.

  7. Here’s a rather basic question about pre-check that i can not seem to find an answer on:
    We actually have Global Entry and we’re flying to Europe in a few weeks, technically on BA but both flights are operated by AA. In fact, in order to make any changes to our flight (seats, meals) we have to go to the AA site. Will pre-check be valid for the flight going over and the Global Entry for the flight coming back? I believe our ticket will say BA (it shows up with a BA flight # – different from the AA flight #).

  8. @Heliwoman American Airlines will issue your boarding pass so they should be able to provide you with precheck if your known traveler number is in the reservation. I don’t believe a codeshare will void precheck.

  9. Thank you! I thought might be the case (esp. since we’re leaving out of the domestic terminal at ORD) but couldn’t find any info otherwise. I did update our reservation on the AA site with our # so hopefully ti will go through. I’ll find out soon enough.

  10. @Heliwoman: I’ve done the same thing – BA flight number but AA metal. Pre-Check has worked for me everytime AA has issued/reissued the boarding pass. Plus I don’t have a KTN (or GE etc) – though travel International J and Domestic F !!

  11. It nice that AA does the notification. Why is it AA cannot print domestic boarding pass with TSA PreCheck for Global Entry international passengers continuing with a domestic segment (for example: inbound flight PDG-DFW-SFO, all on AA metal). International ticket agent suggested to get bp reprinted in DFW (which is a waste of time and this defeats the purpose). Any suggestions on this particular issue is appreciated.

  12. Does anyone know why AA gives me TSA pre check every time I fly? I never signed up for global entry or TSA pre check. The give it to whoever is on my itinerary too! Every time! If I have a known traveler number I don’t know it and have never entered it anywhere. Could it be because I’m Executive Platinum and fly quite often? I’ve never asked AA because why mess with a good thing? Maybe someone on here knows the answer. Seems silly for me to sign up for it when they just give it to me anyways. Anyone else on here experience the same non-problem?

  13. Some of what Mayerowitz and Feinstein reported may not be the whole story. And putting some of the onus on the travel agent isn’t quite fair. If the travel agent is given an account number for Global/TSA/frequent flyer it must match the name in the computer record exactly. Many have opened these accounts using shortened names/initials and not the same names on the I.D. being used to travel, i.e. passports. If the I.D. says John Joseph Jones and the accounts are in John J. Jones, it’s a big possibility the information entered will not be picked up for mileage credit or Pre-check.

  14. I was given TSA Pre check for several flights last year with AA but not once this year. Does anyone know what might have caused it?

  15. I have a REDRESS number and the last time I flew AA FIRST CLASS I got PRECHECK on my boarding pass.
    This time I bought economy and it does not say TSA PRECHECK.
    Why is that?

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