Is TSA PreCheck the New Slow Lane?

Oct 24, 2013

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.

One of the things I appreciate most about having Global Entry – which I got for free thanks to my Amex Platinum card – is the fact that it also automatically gets you access to TSA PreCheck lanes at the airports where they operate, which means that getting through security and to the gate even at busy airports can be a breeze.

However, more and more lately, I’ve been noticing that PreCheck lanes are clogged and sometimes even slower than the normal security lines or those for elite flyers, and a lot of readers have written in to report the same. Now, the site has grown tremendously over the past year and I extol the benefits of Global Entry and TSA PreCheck often, but I didn’t think that many people who read this blog to know about it!

TSA PreCheck isn't feeling so "expedited" lately. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
TSA PreCheck isn’t feeling so “expedited” lately. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Most recently, I was flying Delta from LaGuardia and the TSA PreCheck line at the terminal looked like it was a mile long and not moving very fast at all while the normal and elite security lines were chugging along and a lot shorter. The non-TSA agents manning the lines were not checking for TSA Precheck and frankly the whole situation was out of hand. Something is wrong with this picture. Or many somethings.

First, I don’t think that TSA PreCheck line access is being enforced universally. I’m not talking about the actual security measures with the X-ray machine or not removing your shoes, but rather just letting anyone sidle up through that line with its own TSA agent and then just get into a regular security line. While I’m still thankful that for the most part the people in the line seem to be legitimate and even if they get through the ID screening they go into a regular security lane, I just want them out of my way!

Some airports seem to be better about this than others. For instance, the PreCheck lines at my home airport of Miami are always clear and moving, while those at LaGuardia always seem backed up. Some of the LAX terminals that have PreCheck also seem to be fine, even some of the busier ones like in the United and American terminals, but the Delta one there was backed up the other day according to this tweet sent by Johnny Jet from the line.

I'm not the only one noticing this!
I’m not the only one noticing this!

So you just have to know what you’re heading into at a particular airport.

Second, airlines are making it too easy for too many people to join, resulting in a glut of eligible passengers. I think people forget that you don’t have to have a Trusted Traveler number such as one that’s granted to you with Global Entry or Nexus in order to qualify. Per the TSA PreCheck site, “Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and US Airways are contacting eligible frequent travelers with an invitation to opt-in. Once the passenger opts-in, the airline identifies the individual as a TSA Pre✓™ participant when submitting passenger reservation information to TSA’s Secure Flight system.” (Virgin is going to start inviting its flyers soon, too.)

These airlines can basically give access to anyone, not just their elites, and I don’t want to go all conspiracy theory about this, but it’s possibly they’re giving it to more and more people to give them elite-like “priority” benefits all paid for by the TSA.

Not only that, but beginning later this year US citizens will be able to enroll online or in person at enrollment sites with just an $85 check, fingerprints and ID and enroll in TSA PreCheck, so there are going to be more eligible flyers than ever, which means longer lines.

Finally, and this is perhaps most disturbing of all, there have been reports on Twitter that non-TSA PreCheck-eligible passengers are getting not only through the TSA ID screening in these special lines, but also through security in the dedicated lanes, which seems like it could be a serious security issue. Granted, it’s hard to verify whether these cases are actually try since I have no idea whether someone in front of or behind me is eligible, but it seems like more and more people are on the lookout.

I don’t mean to sound elitist about this, and hey, if you are a Trusted Traveler or have gotten the okay from your airline, I figure you have as much right as anyone to use these lanes, I just wish these lines weren’t growing at such an exponential rate because it’s undermining their usefulness and convenience.

Has anyone else been experiencing this lately? Share your thoughts below.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.