“If You Act Out Of Line, You’ll Wait In Line” TSA To Pull PreCheck From Unruly Passengers

The FAA and TSA have a new partnership where people facing fines for unruly behavior will have PreCheck revoked. As the FAA Administrator puts it, “If you act out of line, you will wait in line.”

Unruly airline passengers may face additional consequences for bad behavior under a new partnership between the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Under the partnership, the FAA will share information of passengers facing fines for unruly behavior with TSA who may remove the passenger from TSA PreCheck screening eligibility, which is a privilege reserved for low-risk travelers.

‘Facing fines’ means, effectively, being charged with bad behavior but where there’s not yet been a determination that a flyer has done anything wrong.

Make no mistake: there should be penalties for violent behavior on an aircraft (as there should be anywhere). There should be penalties for forcing a flight to divert, creating huge costs for an airline and significant inconvenience for other passengers. Those penalties should be civil and criminal. And they should be subject to judicial review.

However this appears to be an abuse of the PreCheck program. PreCheck involves vetting a passenger in advance and identifying them as a lower security risk.

What it means is that a passenger,

  • Doesn’t have to take off their shoes
  • Doesn’t have to take their liquids out of their carry on for separate screening
  • And can go through a metal detector instead of a nude-o-scope

There’s literally zero indication that committing an inflight disturbance and not committing a terrorist act correlates with an increased risk of trying to be a shoe bomber on a future trip, or trying to bring explosive liquids through a security checkpoint. In fact the opposite is probably the case. An intended terrorist isn’t going to want to draw the scrutiny of an inflight incident in advance of any attempt to do something more untoward on an aircraft.

You might say ‘the person is a threat to the aircraft so they’re not a lower security threat’ but they are less of a threat (or certainly no more of one) in the ways in which PreCheck reduces checkpoint screening.

And if the person is indeed a greater threat, in ways relevant to the PreCheck program, then the huge uptick in passenger incidents during the pandemic represent a failure of that screening system and PreCheck officials should be resigning. It isn’t one, though, unless you think mask resistance correlates with membership in al Qaeda. (It doesn’t.)

Taking away PreCheck is intended as an administrative punishment, a way for the government to punish people who behave badly without the pesky interference of judicial review. Using the PreCheck program for something other than airport security is a problem. And a government agency doing so to skirt judicial review is as well. And that’s why this particular tactic is troubling, even as I’m sympathetic to the goal of deterring unruly behavior on aircraft.

(HT: @crucker)

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. I see your both sides of this but these people need punishing.
    Lifetime ban is better (with judicial review).

  2. Sorry, but anyone unable to behave themselves and stand in line and also not abuse, verbally or physically, TSA personnel who are just doing their jobs, is an increased security threat. They show the inability to follow basic instructions from authority figures and potentially divert attention from real security threats. I’m pretty libertarian, and really bristle at abuses of authority, but standing in line patiently is not asking for much and about as basic as it gets in a civilized society.

    If you want to see real lines, try getting through Passport Control at CDG on a Sunday morning in December. You’ll need every bit of arriving 3 hours before departure just to make it onboard before they close the doors on you. No time for Duty Free. And add in the march of guys with very large, scary looking guns and the occasional not so friendly accompanying attack dog , and no one is getting out of line with a temper tantrum.

  3. Are there airports where TSA still makes everyone (other than precheck) take out liquids & have them all in one clear quart size ziplock bag ? I haven’t been seeing that for a while & I was thinking perhaps it had either been changed or at least de-emphasized. I have still seen bags (often) being pulled off the belt for closer inspection where someone accidentally left their water bottle or other full-sized beverage inside, but that’s about all the liquids enforcement I’ve noted anywhere for the past year or so.

  4. Let’s be real here – you don’t get accused of acting badly in an airport or on a plane unless you act badly or do nothing to remove yourself from a bad situation. Repercussions for their behaviors. It’s what these people always yap about when it’s other people. Screw them. The government yanking this privilege, that the fine print makes clear can be yanked at any time for for any reason, will shake out the truly disgusting creatures when their heads explode over having to now take off their shoes for security.

  5. @C_M, I didn’t understand that to be what this is about. This seems to be geared toward the yahoos who get into tussles on board and aircraft, such that the airline reports them to FAA, and the idea is that if you get into trouble for that, you are also going to lose your TSA pre-check status. I suspect (but do not know one way or the other) that TSA already has authority to nix your pre-check status if you act like an idiot in their lines. Gary?

  6. To the holier-than-thou commenters above: you need to remember who and what you are dealing with. You’re dealing with the TSA which includes many employees who could have worked fast food but chose this because it provides a power trip. Power in the hands of the uneducated is too often abused. And when that happens, basically the victim of it ether has to take it or risk the above bullying by the ruling junta because they are guilty until proven innocent.

    Yes, I know that there are many boorish, idiotic buttheads flying on a given day. Many of them will misbehave. And, if they are proven to have broken the law they should absolutely be punished. But I am dead set against punishment for people who have allegedly conducted minor offenses until you can prove they did it and not just that some high school dropout at the TSA said so. These checkpoints are all monitored, so it should be hard to prove it on their part as opposed to unilaterally stripping pax they don’t like of their Pre-Check.

  7. Any person that is unable to control impulsive, bad behavior on an aircraft is a potential threat simply because they have acted out and demonstrated they have poor or no impulse control. The FAA should indeed be reporting these incidents to TSA and TSA should indeed pull the pre-clear status if the offending passenger has that status. Acting like an ass while traveling is not a right.

  8. @AngryFlyer: The article states that the suspension from PreClear would result from the FAA reporting the unruly behavior to TSA. It is not some line person on the TSA line that would initiate the action.

  9. Can’t we just frogmarch them outside and have them summarily shot?
    I can’t imagine that anyone (including family members) would mind.
    Many people say it would resolve the problem. I hear that from all parts of the country.
    I’ve had strong, brave TSA agents, with a tear in their eye, tell me: Sir, we know you can fix this. Just legalize peremptory extrajudicial corporate punishment, and America would be great again.
    We can make that happen. We have only the best people to ensure we protect.

  10. And if the person is indeed a greater threat, in ways relevant to the PreCheck program, then the huge uptick in passenger incidents during the pandemic represent a failure of that screening system and PreCheck officials should be resigning.

    You seem to believe that the passengers causing these incidents represent a higher percentage of pre-check fliers than the general population. That defies common sense and you present no evidence for it.

  11. Finally we are beginning to see actual serious consequences for those who willfully choose to act out , grossly inconvenience, and put others at risk & stress with their myopic antisocial narcissistic & disrespectful behaviors.
    I am pleased to so many of my fellow citizens of our great Republic concur with the appropriate partnering & action by our TSA & FAA to decisively punish these Q-tRump clowns and make an example of their bizarre, extreme & negative behavior.
    Enjoy riding the Greyhound you miserable bastages.

  12. I don’t disagree with consequences for unruly people, but this reminds me of going through Heathrow Terminal 5 in pre-pandemic days. I once muttered in a barely audible way about having to put liquids in a quarter gallon size bag. This was before the bag “rule” was announced. The next thing I knew my well packed hand luggage had been shuttled off to the side, and a perfectly nice security person took everything out of my bag, looked at every item, sent the empty bag back through the machine, OKed that there was nothing dangerous in it, and let me re-pack the bag. Luckily I had plenthy of time before my flight. Now I know the rules, I just smile as I go through security there, and everywhere else. I sure learned my lesson!

  13. While we’re at it let’s put those menacing 2 year olds that can’t keep a mask on their face to the lifetime no fly list. Save time and give all flight attendants the authority of the prosecutor, judge and jury with no possibilty of appeal.

  14. The Pre-Check rights could always be reinstated if found not guilty. It’s not necessarily permanent. Again, this is actions on an airliner, not in line, that precipitate this. I know flight attendants. They so no years have sucked as much as 2020 and 2021. And that being menaced is tiring and leading to burnout. Losing Pre-Check until your case is resolved (and then maybe forever?)?! That’s the very least of what should happen.

  15. Don’t agree at all with you. If someone is acting out on a plane to the point that they need to be fined for not complying with rules etc then who is to say that they are complying with TSA rules? I think their behavior is a good indication that they may be a security risk. I expect TSA to keep us safe from all the idiots not just terrorists.

  16. Having Pre check revoked is the right punishement for those who take out their anger on TSA agents who are simply doing their job. However, it is not enough for unruly passengers on a plane whether on the tarmac or at 35,000 feet.
    In the latter, a minmum 5K fine should be imposed (hit them in the pocket book, where it hurts) and impose a mandatory 3 to 6 months in custody without early release.

  17. You’re absolutely right – taking away pre-check has no effect on the threat these people pose to the flights. 10 years on the no fly list would be a more appropriate and effective response.

  18. I agree with Gary that this kind of extra-judicial punishment is wrong.

    If the persons creating a disruption broke the law, they can be prosecuted in court where the charges are transparent and the accused can defend themselves.

  19. As an airport employee I am fine with this. As my Dad used to say. You wanna play , you gotta pay. My modern version can’t be said here but you get my drift.

  20. The unchecked power of flight attendants. Low self-esteem workers enjoying a piece of the power trip. Here’s a suggestion — end the mask mandate. Clearly it is as unpopular/not practical amongst travelers.

  21. I 100% disagree with Mr. Leff & Marco – The courts are already impacted and TSA/FAA/Homeland etc have the authority to provide immediate remedy as necessary to these egocentric , narcissistic, anti-social clowns who willfully choose to act out , assault & do damage in restricted areas at the expense of those who are basically a captive audience environment.
    No Quarter, No Mercy , No Deals for these cultists..

  22. @ Terri Carl – no TSA ridicule here ! My comment was just that, as others have noted, this article is not about PAX losing their pre-check status for being naughty in the TSA security line – it’s about cross-communication & cross-consequences btw FAA & TSA. TBH & personally speaking, I experience more surliness & antagonism from AA FAs than from TSA personnel, even though I smile & nod & follow the rules punctiliously whether I’m clearing security or sitting on board an aircraft.

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