Will Security of the Future Be Better than PreCheck?

I’m in the November issue of Travel and Leisure beating the drum about how TSA hamstrings the usefulness of PreCheck.

Is it worth it? Gary Leff, cofounder of the frequent-flier community milepoint.com, says there’s hardly ever a line, since the program is exclusive. But since PreCheck privileges aren’t ubiquitous, he can’t bank on having them every time he flies.

I’ve made the point before, it’s a great experience. I admit, I love getting my three beeps and being directed to the metal detector and x-ray with no line, no nude-o-scope, and no need to take off my shoes (I don’t take my laptop out anyway, since I use a bag where it isn’t required, and I’m almost never required to take my Freedom Baggie of liquids out anyway). It’s far more civilized.

But it doesn’t actually reduce time at the airport since you can’t ever know ex ante whether you’ll be permitted to use the PreCheck queue on any given trip (or as I discovered in Miami, that it will even be open).

Don’t get me wrong, restoring my dignity may be even more important than efficient use of time.

All I can hope is that the predictions in this Scott Mayerowitz AP piece from yesterday turn out to be accurate.

“We simply can’t cope with the expected volume of passengers with the way things are today,” said Tony Tyler, director general and CEO of the International Air Transport Association, the airlines’ trade group.

…He predicted that by 2020, governments will be using a “checkpoint of the future” where passengers can race though without stopping, removing clothing, or taking liquids and laptops out of bags.

I’m a bit more skeptical, I don’t see an end to security theatre in 8 years. Unless, of course, the way we get there is expensive boondoggle machines that allow governments to say they’re doing something without inconveniencing passengers and with companies standing to make large amounts of money pushing for this solution.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. like you said its a security “theater” so how will people feel like they are “safe” with out any visible security

  2. Are you sure about there not being a time savings?

    At DCA, I asked one of the TSA staffers, and they said that I’m supposed to use the PreCheck line even if I don’t know that I’ve been selected. I’ve gotten away with doing the same thing at LGA too.

    Even if I’m not selected, that still gets me to the front of the line.

  3. @Steven – the queueing varies by airport. For instance, in the American terminal at JFK there’s a priority line and when you get to the ID checker they run your boarding pass and you either continue in that line or get diverted to PreCheck. No way to know in advance which it’ll be. At the United terminal at O’Hare though you go to a separate security queue.

  4. I’ve been frustrated with United when traveling with my wife. I get the OK for TSA pre and she doesn’t even though we both have our (global entry) numbers in our profile. At the United Club I asked why this is happening and the person asked me what her United status was. (She has none) I’m a 1K and have been waved through every-time.

    I sent a note to the 1K desk and they blame it on TSA:

    “The TSA manages and operates the TSA pre-check program. The TSA determines eligibility for expedited screening prior to each flight and will embed this information in the barcode of your boarding pass.
    Regrettably, United Airlines does not have the capability to intervene in the process.”

    Not sure that I believe this since my wife has gone through with other airlines just not on United.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.