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PreCheck is TSA’s Strategy to Get a Handle on Security Lines
Airport security lines became insufferably long over the past few months. It cost both passengers (who can wait for hours at peak times) and airlines (when passengers miss flights and their seats aren’t used efficiently, plus they have unhappy customers).
While airlines are spending some money on the problem, Delta bought into CLEAR and American is adding staff to improve queues, overall airlines just want the government to spend more or security rather than fixing airport security.
TSA is hiring more screeners, though really should start with redeploying 2800 behavior detection officers to the checkpoint.
TSA had slowed down checkpoints in the aftermath of internal reports that they were missing 95% of contraband passing through screening and said they thought it would be fine because of PreCheck signups. But those signups haven’t been nearly convenient enough, with government contracting disputes holding back expansion.
TSA Agents in Charlotte Watch News of the TSA’s Failure to Detect Weapons and Bombs, Instead of Searching for Weapons and Bombs (HT: Tocqueville)
Anything that grows PreCheck, though, is good for wait times and good for passengers who are able to get out of queues more quickly and without giving a peep show to a TSA employee in a booth.
Two More US Airlines Joining PreCheck
Both Spirit and Frontier are going to be getting set up with PreCheck in the coming months.
Denver-based Frontier Airlines now says it plans to participate in PreCheck by the end of August, while Miramar, Fla.-based Spirit Airlines is planning to join sometime this fall.
Frontier and Spirit will join existing PreCheck-participating airlines:
- Air Canada
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- Cape Air
- Delta Air Lines
- Etihad Airways
- Hawaiian Airlines
- JetBlue Airways
- Seaborne Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- Sun Country Airlines
- United Airlines
- Virgin America
Spirit and Frontier have been holdouts among US airlines because of the IT investment necessary to integrate with TSA for PreCheck. They make money by not making any investments which are unrelated to inflight safety or which they cannot monetize.
I haven’t seen any explanation of why now for these two airlines linking up with TSA. And I haven’t seen any explanation of why both are doing it at the same time. I can think of two possibilities.
- Perhaps there are new financial incentives (subsidies) to get to near-universal participation among US airlines. It might be worth a FOIA request to TSA.
- Spirit and Frontier are finding passengers booking away from them as a result of their lack of participation in PreCheck.
There are 6 reasons that United, Delta, and American are better than the ultra low cost carriers when price is the same.
One of those reasons is that the legacy airlines participate in TSA PreCheck while Spirit and Frontier do not — so flying the ultra low cost carriers means longer waits at TSA and a more intrusive checkpoint experience (nude-o-scopes!). Joining PreCheck eliminates this reason.
Getting PreCheck and Expedited Immigration
Global Entry is fantastic skipping the immigration and customs queues when you return to the U.S.
I didn’t love the fingerprinting or background check that went along with it, but I figured all my cell phone data was being logged anyway long before Edward Snowden was cool. So if the surveillance was inevitable I figured I might as well at least get the convenience.
Now that I have it, it’s hard to imagine life without it — and not just queuing up at immigration, but also that I always get PreCheck at TSA now rather than having it be hit-or-miss through my airline elite status.
Signing up for PreCheck just gets you expedited airport security ($85). Signing up for Global Entry gets you expedited immigration and PreCheck ($100). Nexus gets you the benefits of Global Entry and PreCheck and also gets you expedited immigration into Canada and is the cheapest ($50). All three last 5 years.
It makes virtually no sense to me to get just PreCheck, Global Entry makes the most sense for many people because many credit cards will rebate the signup cost.
Maintaining Global Entry and PreCheck
Once you have it you don’t want to lose it. When coming into the country be sure to declare chocolates, candy bars, chips, or any various items of sustenance whether open or closed, for personal consumption at the airport or meant as gifts. Even if it’s just chocolates off of your flight.
And be sure to keep your profile up to date for instance if you get a new passport.
Expedited Screening Even When PreCheck Lanes are Closed
Whenever I’m at an airport which doesn’t offer PreCheck, or PreCheck lanes are closed (like in Philadelphia at 6pm or Miami just because), I still get expedited screening.
- 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.
Playmobil Security Playset