TSA Pre-Check Will Finally Become More Selective!

Filed Under: Security/TSA

Last August I wrote about how the TSA was planning on tightening up Pre-Check, and limiting it to those who have enrolled in a Trusted Traveler Program (TSA Pre-Check, Global Entry, NEXUS, etc.). As I explained at the time, roughly 45% of domestic passengers were getting Pre-Check, despite only a small minority of them having actually signed up for a Trusted Traveler Program.

From a safety perspective I don’t have an issue with that, since I tend to think taking off your shoes and jacket, and taking out your laptop and liquids, is more security theater than anything else.

That being said, from a passenger experience perspective it really pisses me off, since most of the passengers that were getting Pre-Check didn’t get how it worked, so slowed down the line substantially.

So while I’m not for the TSA limiting Pre-Check on the grounds of safety, I am for them limiting Pre-Check for the purposes of making it a truly expedited experience again.

Well, as the TSA warned, it looks like this is finally happening this month. Per an email sent out by American last night:

This month, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is making changes to the TSA Pre✓® Trusted Traveler Program that will impact which travelers receive expedited screening. If you’re not already a member of one of the Trusted Traveler programs like Global Entry or the TSA Pre✓® Application Program, you will probably see a decline in how often you receive expedited screening, even if you’ve previously “opted-in” through a frequent flyer program.

The best way to increase your chances of receiving TSA Pre✓® on a regular basis is to register for a Trusted Traveler Program with the Department of Homeland Security at dhs.gov/tt. Once you receive your Known Traveler Number (KTN) from TSA, be sure you update your AAdvantage profile.

To add your KTN to your AAdvantage profile:

  • Login to your account on aa.com and select My Account from the AAdvantage menu
  • Within My Account, go to the Information and Password tab
  • Add your Customs and Border Protection 9-digit PASS ID to your secure traveler information

For more information on TSA Pre✓®, visit tsa.gov/tsa-precheck.


So it looks like the changes are kicking in this month, and if you’re not enrolled in Pre-Check you shouldn’t expect to be eligible for it anymore (or at least not as often).

Personally this is something I’m really excited about, as it will return some value to the program.

Are you excited about some sanctity being returned to TSA Pre-Check?

  1. Having elite status skips the bulk of the line at my airport. First world problem to the max. I can wait the extra 5 minutes.

  2. While I agree that just random people shouldn’t be getting PreCheck (I think sometimes they would actually pull people out of the regular line and into the PreCheck line) it does make some sense to let frequent fliers get the benefit some of the time. Those passengers generally know the routine and TSA should have a good profile on the passenger for security reasons. So, I’m with you on reducing PreCheck in some ways as our suggest, but it should be opened to more than just what TSA is proposing here.

  3. I just see it that TSA accountants are wringing their hands over the extra $85 per person they can get for their coffers….

  4. I’m with you Ben – simply having airline status shouldn’t be enough to let you circumvent the process of getting the Pre-Check, which is at its core a security issue. Sure, airlines should be allowed to help their elite customers through the process (and pay the fee if they want), but ultimately TSA should be responsible for ensuring the people approved for such programs aren’t a threat.

  5. This is absurd. Frequent flyers DO NOT slow down these lanes. Instead, they are clogged with those randomly selected and have no clue. TSA has only made it worse by opening up ropes and allowing travelers from the regular line to cut through to PreCheck when the lines get too long. Just happened to me this morning in Orlando flying a non-preferred airline. It certainly helped me get through faster, but I was behind a guy who took his shoes off.

  6. Glad TSA is making this change. The airlines used precheck as a perk for the elite status. This is a security issue and not a perk. The proper background checks for those of us who obtain global entry or trusted traveler status trumps elite status. This should also lessen the precheck lines.

  7. I’d be happy if they stopped randomly pulling flyers from the regular line and moving them into Pre-Check. Some airports actually have random number generator type systems. (looking at you ISP). Show TSA your boarding pass, if not PreCheck/preferred access then push the touch screen and an arrow points you to one of three lines (regular, preferred access and Pre Check).

    Good for line utilization management. Frustrating for paid Pre Check users. Bad if your intent is true security screening. And odd that post 9/11 NYC metro of all places would endorse it.

  8. I’d be happy if I actually consistently got PreCheck with my Global Entry number. As it is there’s almost always one flight a month (out of 6-8) that I don’t get PreCheck for, and sometimes more. There’s been at least one time that I went 3-4 flights in a row without getting PreCheck and that was getting real annoying.

  9. Why not further expand expedited screening and create two lines?

    I’d be in favor of an elite TSA precheck line accessible only to those who are: a) eligible for expedited security; b) flying in a premium cabin or an elite member.

    You could easily just have the premium line next to the regular line and funnel those people through the same screening equipment, so it would be like the Priority lane for AA.

  10. @Nick E

    MCO is the worst for that, it has to be one of the worst airports in the country for oblivious tourists, and it has the highest rate of randoms getting pulled into pre check that I’ve ever seen. I think this problem causes more of a so

  11. Got cut off, sorry.

    I think the randoms causes more of a slow down than the frequent flyers. I hope they cut down on that as well, but that remains to be seen.

  12. I think that TSA may be over zealous in their enforcement of this. 3 out of the last 4 flights that I have taken I have not been given access to pre-check, and I have Global Entry. In fact, on one of my trips I was talking to a family standing in the security line behind me. The mother and father were both Global entry, their teenage daughter was not. The daughter was given pre-check and the mother and father were not.

  13. It sounds to me like the airlines were paying TSA for this option for their elites (or perhaps there was a fixed amount of time they received this in exchange for the upfront investment to be part of precheck, which I believe was $100,000-200,000, iirc), and now that agreement is over. It allowed TSA to get their system running faster than they could interview individuals, but now that they have over 1 million members, they want everyone to pay to join.

  14. Yeah, I wonder if it was like a limited-time-offer to get the traffic up, and now that it is, it is going back to people who have registered. By the way, I still take my dress shoes and belt off when going through pre-check. I find they will often set off the detector if I am wearing them, making it slower. But I am pretty quick about it.

  15. We flew on Spirit this past weekend and got Pre Check — and Spirit doesn’t even have Pre Check! I had to explain to the people in front of me how the line worked, i.e., liquids, laptops, shoes and coats all stay in place.

    So I’m completely with you: amidst all this security theater, the TSA should put some effort into turning Pre Check back into the truly expedited experience it once was. Maybe yesterday’s email is a first step in the right direction?

  16. As Pre✅ Is only $85 for five years, I’ve never understood why some Frequent Flyers have a problem with paying. If you fly enough to be an elite passenger anyways (25+ flights a year at a minimum) it’s less than 75 cents per flight. If offered as a service during booking all of us here would pay it.

  17. I don’t get the impression that the randoms are being removed at all — rather the airline elites who had been getting Precheck for free (and who were the original pilot group when they started Precheck) will now have to shell out for Global Entry or Precheck in order to keep getting it routinely. Unfortunately the people who are neither elite nor paid for the service are probably going to keep clogging up the lines..

  18. It’s not only the inexperienced travelers who take off their shoes in the PreCheck line. It’s also the seasoned travelers who are wearing shoes / boots with a steel shank that they know will set off the metal detector.

  19. I, too, have noticed a definite reduction in pre check selection frequency since I got a trusted traveller number.

  20. So the TSA creates a bottleneck that is “solved” by charging passengers extra to receive what they already had before the TSA was created? Does anyone really think this is about actual security? So the author of a supposedly “pro-consumer” blog relishes seeing everyone else shoved back into even longer lines so he can pass through just a little quicker? I don’t mind if someone like Gary says something snobby or self-entitled, we expect that from him, but Ben has often styled himself as a sympathizer of the common folk. Except when it slows him down a bit.

  21. Ben,
    Agree with your post. I have had Global Entry for 18 months and I’ve grown weary of the pre-check being longer than the other.

    PS: Going forward, pls delete any comment that replies to your questions with the dreaded “first world problem.” It cracks me up the ppl that read your blog (which is mostly about FC travel around the world) and feel the need to pull out that smug, condescending phrase. Go read the Haiti Today blog if you want to ponder 3rd world issues.

  22. As a foreigner who has plans to fly within America some time next year, I can only read this as:

    – the TSA will cause me even more misery than usual, and
    – I’m going to get groped.

    It’s security theater, and it’s arguable if it helps the security at all. I would like to get rid of this whole take-off-your shoes business and all this nonsense for EVERYONE.

  23. We’re the Government. We’re here to help you.

    I find it sad, reading many of these posts, to see that some of you actually believe that this nonsense “protects” us when we fly. The whole scheme is a silly invention, predicated on the idea that we can solve political problems with technological solutions.

    I’ve had expensive French shaving cream confiscated, because although it was obviously 80% consumed, the original package size was just slightly larger than the permitted size. The guy was obviously as gay as me and knew his skin care products. Yet I’ve never ever seen a stainless steel ball point pen taken away from a Business traveller. Why? Because it would be silly to confiscate ball point pens from frequent business travellers, as we all know. Almost as silly as randomly assuming that granny might have explosives in the soles of her shoes.

    When the next ghastly attack comes it won’t be airplanes. We’re looking for the threats in the wrong place, “because the light is better over here”.

    The opposite of security is convenience.

  24. I have never had a problem waiting in the “official” Pre-Check line for ID checking. At PHX I typically walk right up to the podium, the longest I’ve see the line is maybe 4 or 5.. It’s this “line” that will be reduced by eliminating Elite FF as an official qualification.

    The problem is after the ID check podiums. It seems as if about 40% of the passengers who don’t qualify for Pre-Check are being randomly selected to use it. It’s generally these people that slow down the process, not the Elite FFs. Reading AA’s memo as if it were official policy, I don’t see any mention about random selection. Removing Elite FFs as a qualification will do nothing to speed up processing, it only gets those folks who’ve been spoiled to pony up the $85.

    Having said all that, it was my impression from the beginning that having Elites auto-qualified was only an introduction phase. I only travel internationally once or twice a year but signed up with Global Entry mainly on the rumors that TSA was working on an expedited process and that GE would provide automatic qualification and it did. In the beginning, there weren’t many qualified to Pre-Check so TSA opened it up to the airlines to grant it as a temp benefit.

    To those who are GE but keep getting denied … is your KTN in the profile for each airline you do business with ?
    Perhaps it isn’t, so you’ve been getting Pre-Check in the past based on your Elite level, not GE. As the Elite qualification starts winding down, you’re getting more and more denials ?

  25. Have recently seen: 1. Precheck line longer than elite or regular lines (SEA and many others), 2. All flyers being routed through pre-check (CLE), 3. Precheck qualified given a yellow card, but in nude-e-scope line (PSP).

  26. TSA needs to figure out if Pre-Check is about security or expedited times. If it’s the former, only Trusted Travelers should be eligible. If it’s the latter, then keep the high-status people in and kick out the random kettles who clog up the line.

    Then again, I wish the current TSA setup would just go away. The “Pre-Check” security standards served us well from the 1970s to 2007. 9/11 happened because of screeners not doing their jobs. Box cutters weren’t allowed on-board pre-9/11. They’re NOT making us any safer. If anything, all of the security theater is taking away from true security.

    /gets on soapbox
    How come I don’t get groped / nude pictures taken of me when I enter a federal or military facility? How come I can bring in cases of water without getting haraSSSSed over it? How come the security officers at these facilities (and they’re real, sworn, law enforcement officers) are usually dressed in sharp suits or at the very least something you could get away with at the country club, and not in an intimidating way? How come these security officers are calm, cool, and never yell/bark/order the civvies around? How come these officers have real common sense?

    I’d argue US Centcom or the Federal courts in Manhattan are more of a national interest than a plane full of 150 random people yet I’ve never had an unpleasant experience with security at them. Similarly, there’s all sorts of mayhem I could do in buildings with >18,000 people in them, but there’s no crotch-grabbing going on in those either.
    /gets off soapbox

  27. Dear Lucky, you are right on here. Gary Leff has it wrong. I am sick and tired of people who don’t have the credentials and don’t know the drill. I did not pay my fee and put my finger print down to have others who have not obtain the same privilege.

  28. Talk about drinking the kool-aid! “KTN” and “pre check” what a joke that sheep like you are allowing your rights to be eroded in the name of herd safety. I say cull the herd. Cull it of idiots who think that the TSA is anything more than another vector to freedom strangulation by the power elite’s minions in the already corrupt government. Your willingness to participate in the name of “easy” makes me PUKE at your very existence! ……just for informational purposes; where is that I sign up again?

  29. I always get pre check for no apparent reason. It will be interesting to see if this holds true in the future!

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