How to Get Expedited Screening When TSA PreCheck Lanes are Closed

Since the TSA doesn’t actually catch prohibited items going through security checkpoints with any regularity, there are worries that pushing people through PreCheck lanes that haven’t been pre-vetted is problematic. (Although these worries require you to believe that regular security is more likely to catch problems.)

So the TSA has scaled back ‘managed inclusion’ so that TSA employees no longer pick people out of line to send them through PreCheck. Instead, only TSA dogs (as interpreted by TSA employees) do so.

There are fewer people going through the PreCheck lanes than a year ago as a result, and so the TSA has scaled back PreCheck hours at some airports.

The share of overall capacity dedicated to PreCheck fell to 22% in November from 26% a year earlier, according to Mr. Hoggan. The number of PreCheck lanes hasn’t been reduced, but the hours they are open has been cut.

But just because PreCheck is closed doesn’t mean you’re out of luck for expedited screening.

When I flew Southwest last month the TSA PreCheck lane was closed, even though I arrived slightly before 6 and the line supposedly stays open until 6.

I’ve been to several airports that don’t have PreCheck this year, like Mobile, Alabama and Yakima, Washington.

And when PreCheck isn’t available, I still get ‘PreCheck light’. Screeners refer to it as ‘Expedited’ screening, but that moniker can be confusing since the TSA refers to PreCheck itself as expedited.

  • You keep your shoes on
  • Your Freedom Baggie of liquids stay in your bag (but honestly, they do anyway, I don’t remember the last time I saw a screener insist you take your liquids out of the bag)
  • Your laptop is still supposed to come out of your bag
  • You go through the metal detector, not the nude-o-scope

I still use a laptop bag that’s “TSA Approved” and so I just have to unclip the bag rather than taking the laptop out.

So use the priority queue, leave your shoes on, the only thing you still have to do is take your laptop out.

If you aren’t told about this, ask. Your boarding pass may be highlighted, or you may be given a special card to carry through the checkpoint. In some smaller airports the document checker may just tell the screener you’re expedited.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. Tried this at the North security checkpoint at ATL (the one that feeds into the concourse near the AA club) last weekend at 9:45pm and the agent didn’t care who was pre check, there was no “expedited security” for anyone when Pre-Check closes at 6pm at the “world’s busiest airport.” As the only non-Caucasian in my line, I was then racially profiled and sent through the Nude-o-Scope while everyone else was sent through the regular metal detector. TSA can bite me.

  2. You must not have been lucky enough to have flown through Albany, NY… Every liquid must be outside a bag and every opt out is basically a cavity search. Gotta love TSA consistency.

  3. This isn’t always the case. Pre check lanes were closed at FLL when I was there and the guy said the best he could do was for me to keep shoes on but liquids and laptops had to come out of the bag. Still got to do metal detector at least.

    It’s just annoying, the main reason I got global entry/pre check was so I didn’t have to take liquids out because that is the biggest pain in the butt, aside from shoes having to come off.

    I wish they still had the “black diamond” expert flyer lanes. Those always worked because only people who knew what they were doing got in those lanes and it went really fast.

  4. at ORD, TSA requires a paper boarding pass to use Pre Check Lite , if you have a mobile one you have to go thru the normal security even if it say Pre-Check…

  5. @naif not always true. Last I was there, they had a boarding pass scanner near the metal detector. If you put your mobile pass on the scanner and got three beeps, you could then send the phone through xray and walk through metal detector. At least that was my experience, and confirmed verbally with another tso.

  6. No Pre-Check Lite at LGA Terminal B last Weds. Instead, they dovetailed passengers in the priority lane with those in the regular lane, and everyone had to take off shoes, etc. It took forever to get through the “priority” lane.

  7. Precheck lite stinks. The most important part of not having to go through the whole gauntlet of security theater is not having to unpack the carryon. This always must be done with precheck lite … So out comes the laptop, the cpap, (and the iPad depending on the airport and who is working that afternoon). But I can leave on my sandals :rolleyes:

  8. It’s such a pain when this happens.

    Walk up to no precheck line at MSY so I start the dance and have shoes and laptop off and out. Wait, no, precheckers can keep shoes on. 2 minutes later, but wait, laptops do have to come out. I must have looked like I had never flown before.

  9. I see we’re back to the old cookbook:

    1) bash TSA whenever possible (without providing an alternative) – check
    2) write an unnecessarily wordy post (first 2 or 3 paragraphs have nothing to do with the title…added just to bash TSA) – check

    The only thing missing is including a link where you are quoted in a newspaper.

  10. @Mark I realize you prefer your content in the form of tweets rather than blog posts, but wouldn’t the content need to be inaccurate or gratuitous to be bashing?

    The criticisms are directly related to the PreCheck challenges. Since the TSA continues to demonstrate incompetence, the government continues to demand minor changes. Like ending lesser screening for people at random that don’t ‘look like’ terrorists to the perceptive eye of lightly-trained ‘behavior detection officers’. But pushing fewer people through those lines means the agency keeps the lines open less. So here’s how that’s handled.

  11. @Check Them All

    If that was sarcasm, you forgot a smiley face emoticon to let us know you’re not a racist prick.

    If you’re serious, you’re part of the problem and a racist prick.

  12. My son just came from Denver and he says the TSA there has there own Pre-Check rules about computers and shoes. Anyone have this experience?

  13. I don’t have “pre-check” formally, but as an elite I was getting it 90% of the time for the past few years. Oddly, even when I don’t get pre-check, I leave my ziplog baggie of liquids in my bag regardless, and haven’t had anyone flag them in years. I think that’s the new normal… tell people to pull the liquids baggie out, but don’t flag anyone who does. I *have* been flagged for a mini-bottle of water though, so it’s clearly a matter of density or mass or something.

  14. At SEA recently they let everyone into main security checkpoint precheck until 7 am. Everyone – 150 people easily while I was there – got metal detector and shoes on in the fast lane. They weren’t separated from main lanes after BP scan. I was there right at 7 and they switched to real precheck at 7:00 and divided post scan security queues. Head the blue men talking about as they reorganized the lane dividers. Strange.

  15. You want pre check more, you’ll need more screeners to keep sepeeate lanes open. Which means hiring more, which means Congress has to allow for DHS to spend money to do so. Everything they do is what Congress tells them to do & is in regards to what terrorists do in other countries. Anyone even remember 9/11, the shoe bomber? Rush to the airport to wait, what 10-20 mins in a line, just to wait hours for a delayed flight. Hell, you wait an hour & half for a 3 minute ride at an amuesment park! But your own safety, now thats something to bitch about. Would you rather get on a flight with no screening at all, no clue what anyone is carrying or know that there was security screening involved?

  16. I was flying from Ny laguardia to MINNEAPOLIS with my daughter who was thirteen a few months ago. She was assigned TSA pre check on her boarding pass and I was not. But I was directed to the TSA pre check line . When we got thru the line the security told us because she was 13 she wasn’t TSA PreCheck and we had to then wait in a much longer line. The error was theirs that the ticket did not reflect her proper age as I entered her birthday when I bought the ticket . So why the run around ? If they had directed us correctly on the first place or given us a pass to enter the TSA security or to by pass the long line , they would prevent passenger frustration . The staff is also quite dismissive and unhelpful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *