Free TSA Pre-Check Is Officially Over!

The two innovations of the past several years which have made the US travel experience substantially more pleasant have been TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry. As a reminder, TSA Pre-Check allows eligible travelers expedited security, whereby they don’t have to take off their shoes, or take their liquids or laptops out of their bags.

TSA-Pre-Check

Meanwhile Global Entry allows for expedited customs & immigration, whereby eligible travelers can just use kiosks at immigration, rather than having to queue for an agent.

Global-Entry

Historically TSA Pre-Check has been limited to those enrolled in a Trusted Traveler Program, like TSA Pre-Check, Global Entry, NEXUS, etc. However, over time they started a “managed inclusion program,” whereby elite members of airlines and many other passengers deemed “low risk” got access to Pre-Check as well.

This was quite annoying, not only because it made Pre-Check lines much longer, but mostly because these travelers weren’t familiar with how the lanes worked, so really slowed things down.

Last August I wrote about how the TSA was planning on limiting Pre-Check eligibility, which is welcome news for any road warrior. At the time, about 45% of all passengers on domestic itineraries were eligible for Pre-Check, which is an insane number.

That being said, the TSA’s follow through on this has been a slow process. In April of this year I wrote about how the TSA “warned” passengers once again that they’d start limiting those eligible for Pre-Check.

Anyway, after what seems like a lot of threats and warnings, as of this week the TSA is apparently limiting Pre-Check to those belonging to a Trusted Traveler program.

TSA-Pre-Check-1

Via Travel Market Report:

The TSA on Monday pulled the plug on its controversial but traveler-friendly Managed Inclusion Program, which allowed frequent travelers to use the PreCheck security lines at airports without paying the fee.

The Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck Managed Inclusion program is now officially phased out from all airports nationwide.

TSA had been allowing passengers deemed “low-risk” to use the expedited security lanes in order to speed up the security process. Passengers could save time—and money—if they were lucky enough to be cleared to use the PreCheck lanes without paying the $85 application fee.

If you’re one of the people who has become accustomed to receiving Pre-Check without being enrolled in a Trusted Traveler program, it seems those times are over.

If you’re not yet enrolled, your best bet is to sign up for Global Entry ($100) rather than TSA Pre-Check ($85). Both are valid for five years, and if you sign up for Global Entry you’ll also be included in TSA Pre-Check. As a reminder, here are the credit cards which offer Global Entry fee credits as a benefit.

Bottom line

This is bad news for those who weren’t in a Trusted Traveler program but were still getting Pre-Check frequently. As someone who has Global Entry, I’m really excited about this change, as it both means the Pre-Check lines will be shorter, and the people in those lines will hopefully have a better understanding of what’s going on.

If you’ve flown this week, have you noticed shorter Pre-Check lines? How do you feel about this change?

Comments

  1. I dont know if that is true actually. Flew on Monday and got pre and just flying now and got pre today as well. I am not an elite or have any trusted program. Have been getting pre since the early days and have been at 99% so far

  2. You forgot Nexus (Precheck AAND Global Entry AND expedited access over land and sea for Canada and Mexico, for only $50)…

  3. How can it be claimed that elite pax of airlines have no idea how things worked? By definition, elite pax are likely to travel frequently, so wouldn’t they accumulate knowledge about how things worked in due course?

  4. Interesting to see if Pre-Check will now be a better experience. However, this makes me wonder if they are going to start cutting the hours when Pre-Check is open even more (e.g. in the evenings)? When you are entitled to a Pre-Check but have to go through a regular line, it’s rather annoying.

  5. Can someone please tell me how I would use my Nexus card to get Pre Check? Do I just present the Nexus card? Thanks!

  6. You’re confusing, I believe, two unrelated things.

    First, yeah, sure, “managed inclusion” may be dead.

    But, second, who cares? They’re still going to drop loads of regular folks into the Pre Check lines at the airport on a catch-as-catch-can, completely ad hoc, “when the lines are short” basis. The term “managed inclusion,” in other words, doesn’t also mean “regular folks whom we shove into the short Pre Check line at the last minute because it’s short.”

    So, no, your airport experience won’t be any better. I think. Hope I’m wrong.

  7. I have found that many pre check lines have had hours reduced at various terminals and are providing only expedited screening, still requiring removing laptops and being sifted in with the general population. It seems TSA is taking advantage of the reduced volume of precheck to reduced staffing instead of provide faster service.

  8. Ok, Michelle, I’ll volunteer.

    I don’t have a Nexus card, but here’s how it works, I believe.

    FIrst, it’ll only work when traveling on airlines that participate in the program, basically just the legacy airlines plus Southwest and a few others. Spirit, for example, and most foreign airlines are excluded. The list grows from time to time, but very slowly.

    Second, you have to go into your (for example) American Airlines frequent flier profile and add the official “trusted traveler” number from your Nexus card. Same for EVERY OTHER PARTICIPATING AIRLINE YOU FLY. Doing this for AA will get you nothing when flying UA.

    And third, you have to ensure that ALL personal details match your passport EXACTLY. This means full middle name, date of birth, everything. No typos allowed. Seriously. ANY mismatch means you don’t get Pre Check, ever.

    Oh, and fourth, existing reservations (if you have any) have to have this stuff manually added. Future reservations will be automatically included.

    Good luck, and don’t screw this up. Or it won’t work.

  9. What TSA did was a marketing ploy to let people try the TSA Pre-Check service for free and now that many people got used to they take that benefit out. Oh, but wait!!! You can get it back if you pay a $85 fee!!! Just pay attention on the number of people that will rush to pay that fee to get the benefit back. It is always all about $$$$$$. What will happen if we to a point where there are more people eligible for TSA Pre-Check than not?

  10. My family member yesterday flown to Europe with Delta using her eastern European country passport (part of EU). She has not been in the states for over ten years, she was here for ten days. We went to Puerto Rico last week. She flew back yesterday to Europe. No status whats so ever with airlines. She doesn’t speak English.. got TSA pre-check to/from Puerto Rico last week, got TSA pre-check to europe yesterday … I was surprised

  11. “If you’re not yet enrolled, your best bet is to sign up for Global Entry ($100) rather than TSA Pre-Check ($85). Both are valid for five years, and if you sign up for Global Entry you’ll also be included in TSA Pre-Check.”

    –“Information that (literally) would have been useful to me YESTERDAY!”

  12. I only recently completed my Global Entry as I’m now flying more often for work. Up until this point my 10 year old son ALWAYS was PreCheck while none of the rest of the family was…needless to say he never used it and now it seems he won’t see it again 🙂

  13. @Endre. I have first hand experience flying a few times with a family member who does not have any status or enrolled in Pre. I am, so when we flew together on the same PNR, his ticket printed out with Pre check but when he flies alone, it does not. I presume that your relative flew with you due to their language challenge?

  14. @RL She flew with me to/from Puerto Rico, so your logic makes sense. But she flew alone to/from Europe on her own ticket alone. Still got TSA Pre-check. 🙂

  15. So far the precheck program has been a bust for my travels. The precheck line is rarely open at Savannah, Charleston and BWI when I have flown. Seems like another user fee ( tax) with promises unfulfilled. Currently I would say I wasted my money to purchase the ability to use the precheck line since they are often closed.

  16. NEXUS is the best deal at only $50 and gets you niceties from both the US & Canadian immigration/TSA types. Catch: You can only interview at a border town and the iris scan can only be done at a Canadian airport location.

    Otherwise, get Global Entry. Hint: Guess which program the TSA higher-ups have? It ain’t TSA Pre, it’s Global Entry. To quote one of the TSA administrators which one he had & why, “TSA Pre is run by TSA. Global Entry’s run by Border Patrol… which one would you trust and want to work with?”

    @Michelle: Tom’s right. In fewer words, when making airline reservations, put your Trusted Traveler # in when filling in your personal details. This field is usually near the TSA Redress #, which is a different animal. For Global Entry / NEXUS members, your Trusted Traveller# is shown as the 9 digit PASSID# on the back of the card. See http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/travel-voyage/ident-eng.html

  17. The problem with the old precheck lines wasn’t the number of people in line, it was WHO was in line. If it were just elite members, that’d be fine, but the lines were packed with kettles who insisted on taking out laptops and shoes. The infrequent amateur travelers (you know, the ones who called their friends back home right after they cleared security just to tell them they got precheck) are the ones who slowed down the precheck lines.

  18. By far, the biggest improvement in the recent weeks at precheck has been not providing the big white bins for those going through the lines. They are not even close by at MSP precheck. If you are floundering around, trying to find one, the friendly TSA agent informs you that you do not need one, because you do not take anything out. If you want a bin for your wallet or phone, there are the dog bowls on top of the belt. This has helped immensely!

  19. Finally! As one who paid the $100 to get Global Entry and Trusted Traveler, I felt like an idiot when just about everybody and his brother got the Pre-check for free. I had to come in for an interview, bring various documents to prove who I was, be finger printed, and paid the $100. I had to swear not to abuse this privilege or it would be taken from me.

    Now, please tell me how giving it for free to people who have not been cleared as I was improves security? Thank goodness they are no longer doing the free stuff.

  20. NEXUS is the best. Pre-Check, Global Entry and special lines at the land border crossings. The biggest time saver is at the land border crossings where you can easily save 30 minutes on each passage across the border depending on where it is. One minor caveat to what AlexS mentioned, NEXUS interviews can be scheduled at Boeing Field/King County Airport just south of downtown Seattle, both Canadian and US immigration have staffed offices there so they can complete the interviews. There may be other similar exceptions in a few cities but I did my initial interview at Boeing Field and my son had to go back after five years for a followup interview on renewal of the card. The renewal interview was very short though, sort of a “prove to us that you exist” interview.

  21. 9 pm Tuesday evening, IAD. I have Global entry, my companion on the same reservation does not. Checked in at airport kiosk. Both marked TSA Precheck, both got 3 beeps at scanner. Unfortunately Precheck was closed so it took 20 minutes to get through a seemingly short line; only one nude-o-scope in action.

  22. On Wednesday morning at LAX/Terminal 7, the PreCheck line had well over 100 people and it extended almost to the far end of the check-in area. Another, smaller, regular checkpoint on the far east side of the T7 lobby area had about 25 people in it. I and many others joined that line and were rebuffed by the ID checker who kept encouraging us to use the PreCheck lane. We all pushed back and insisted this lane would be faster.

    I don’t know if LAX didn’t get the memo or how exactly they had so many PreCheck eligible passengers at that time, but it was hellish looking and frankly, many of the people in line did not appear to be frequent fliers.

    My total time in line was about 8 minutes, I am certain it would have exceeded 20 had I chosen the PreCheck line.

  23. Am I doing something wrong? I have Global Entry as of a few months ago and have entered my number into my various airline profiles but it isn’t netting me complimentary TSA Pre-check.

  24. @HeavenlyJane: Make sure what you enter everything in the airline reservation EXACTLY as you did on your GE app. (Go to CBP’s Goes site and click on your Global Entry Application to see what you filled out). Full Name (including middle), DOB, and PASSID must match the reservation roster for the system to grant you access. Also make sure you’re putting it in the Trusted Traveler field and not TSA Redress. The latter is for people who ended up on the no-fly list.

  25. Problem i have is precheck is hardly ever open at RSW when i fly. I always ask why and all they give me a piece of paper to keep my shoes on.

  26. Wish this was the case, but just had my worst-ever PreCheck experience yesterday (Wednesday) around 5 pm. The JFK T4 TSA PreCheck lane around 5 pm was mobbed with foreign passport holders whose pockets appeared to be stuffed with random nuts and bolts, and had no idea why they were in a lane that didn’t require shoe removal. It was complete pandemonium.

  27. Wow, I didn’t realize Global Entry was only $100 – and for 5 years?! That definitely seems worth it to me. Especially with Pre-Check included!

  28. Well, I’m flying AA tonight (I hope, flight already took off and came back and is 4 1/2 hours late). Without the FF PreCheck I’ve become used to security took 25 minutes, including my opt-out experience. Not my best travel day this year…

  29. Had the LONGEST precheck line of my life at DFW Terminal D yesterday, plenty of people not understanding what to do and taking liquids out

  30. PHX is notorious for not having pre check open, also they still make you take off your shoes etc. I feel like if I’m paying for a service then they should provide said service.

  31. DO NOT BELIEVE THE HYPE. TSA has NOT stopped free precheck. As the Travel Market Report article quotes the ONLY program that has ended is “Managed Inclusion II”. If you want to end free precheck, then you need to support HR 2127 “Securing Expedited Screening Act”, this proposed bill would prohibit “free precheck”. Support HR 2127 “Securing Expedited Screening Act”.

  32. When they started pre check the only people eligible were elite frequent flyers with a long history with the airline that they were flying. This made sense since the many miles safely flown was not the profile of a terrorist. Now if a terrorist has $85 he becomes exempt from security by having a short interview and paying $85. It’s only a matter of time until one or more terrorists stroll through TSA pre check and we have a repeat of 9-11. Meanwhile passengers with histories of safely flying millions of miles will be excluded from pre check.

  33. @Michael: Which part of the day & which concourse are you usually flying out of RSW? I’m usually flying out of D, mid-morning or early afternoon and Pre is usually open there. While RSW isn’t my home base, I do know quite a employees who work for the airport, TSA, and airlines there and can mention something to them.

    @Kens: I’d rather have the terrorists go through the pre-check line. At least the walk-through metal detectors actually work, unlike the nude-o-scopes.

    @Rachel: It’s quite reasonable. I still wish it was $50 like NEXUS is, but even for an infrequent flyer it makes sense. Airlines charge a minimum of $10 more per flight for priority security screening. Figure that’s at least $20 round-trip, all you need to do is make 1 flight a year to break even. More if your chosen airline charges even more or you fly more. Then there’s the cost/benefit ratio… How much would you be willing to spend to avoid a 90 minute security queue? That one adds up real quickly. Especially when your traveling and aren’t feeling well.

  34. @HeavenlyJane – any reservations which were made prior to your entering your GE into your profile will require manual attention. You’ll just pull up the existing reservation and add the Known Traveler number in your passenger info section. Going forward, it will come automatically with bookings because it’s now permanently in your profile and will be migrated into your reservation.

  35. I enrolled in TSA precheck 2 years ago, filling out the online form, driving a considerable distance, and paying $85. This week, I was pulled from the line both during my outdoing AND incoming flights after having walked through the standard scanner because I had “randomly” been singled out for more in-depth screening.

    At the outgoing flight, I simply had to have a solution applied to the inside of my hands — palm and fingers. I asked the TSA attendant what he was check for, and he replied, “Chemicals.”

    On my return flight, I was again pulled aside after having walked through the standard scanner. I was told I was “randomly” selected for full screening. I explained that two years ago, I had enrolled in, been finger-printed, provided documentation and paid $85 for 5-year approval.

    I was directed to remove my shoes and enter the full-body scanner, and I politely refused. I then had the choice of a hands-on screening or not proceeding to my flight.

    I was, to put it mildly, outraged. As angry as I was, I maintained my composure — though just barely — and opted for the hands-on screening in a private area and proceeded to my flight. I was not allowed to touch my luggage or tote bag that contained my purse, which was sitting on the conveyor.

    It seems beyond coincidence that I, who was officially registered for expedited screening, was “randomly” selected for intrusive screening twice in one week. With 1.73 million domestic passengers flying in the U.S. every day, how “random” was that?

    I will write a letter to TSA today, but I doubt that there will be a logical explanation — if I get a reply at all.

    If anyone can provide insight, I would be grateful.

  36. @Kathleen, you have a serious miss understanding about a government program. You believe (understand) that a government program is logical and transparent. It is neither. Did someone told you otherwise? Who was it?

  37. @Kathleen..Just because you are enrolled in Precheck doesn’t mean you are exempt from random full screening. So when the TSA decides (as they did recently) to “increase security and screening” because of a high alert and general security concerns, this means that they turn up the random number. And who knows what it was or what it is. It could have been 1 out of 100 Precheck passengers got randomly chosen for additional screening and now it’s 1 out of 4, who knows? But in times of high alert and “increased security” you shouldn’t think that it’s unusual for you to have been selected for additional random security checks on both of your flights. I got randomly picked a few days ago and I have had Global Entry for years. Precheck should be looked at like a streamline security check some times, but not every time. There’s no guarantees.

  38. I have Nexus and collect around 200-400k frequent flyer points a year on Aeroplan.
    Sometimes however, I must use AA (via CP AsiaMiles) to fly through the US when staralliance schedules are letting me down.

    This weekend I was awarded precheck through AA without supplying my Nexus info. This irritated me, and makes me wonder what the point of precheck is as I concur with your annoyance when there are large lines at the precheck. I doubt this will streamline security, but as others said, I hope I am wrong.

    I have only noticed significant benefits when travelling through Canada, or crossing borders. Regional travel through the US is filled with confused attendants, people who are unaware that Nexus exists, and long lines/wait times. I frequently give up on achieving precheck status while at US airports, when I have to print my ticket over using an e-ticket since more than half the time the attendant is unsure of what to do with a Nexus card and simply directs me to a kiosk that will not print a precheck ticket.

  39. We signed up for the global entry and got the tsa precheck for our flights in December. My neighbor and his wife also signed up and traveled somewhere else in December. Their 17 year old son traveled with them and had not signed up for global entry but still was issued tsa precheck. There are still people getting it that haven’t signed up. It might be because he was traveling with his parents which were both approved for global entry.

  40. This article is four months old and I have yet to see a change in the percentage of flights where I get prechecked and I have not enrolled in TSApre or Global Entry.Second point. When it happens, I’ll pay to get it but, at this time, I don’t find it necessary

  41. Received unenrolled TSA pre in Burbank to Seattle in December 2015 flying United.
    Received unenrolled TSA pre in Burbank to Seattle in January 2016 flying SWA.
    Have never received it leaving Seattle.

  42. When you sign up for TSA Precheck or Global Entry do you get TSA Precheck 100% of the time? or is it still hit or miss after you sign up?

  43. @john. I check in numerous times a week. I have global entry/ pre TSA. I got it every time for the past 2-3 years.

  44. @john, If you have Global Entry (GE), you have to add the your GE number to your airline profile for each airline (in the Known Traveler Number spot). If there isn’t a perfect name match (middle name vs. middle initial), it can result in no TSA Pre-check.

    My husband and I both have GE and often one of us gets pre-check and the other not. It’s annoying to have to sleuth out the reasons and, of course, you only know you got it fixed when future check-ins go smoothly. Overall, my husband has not gotten his money’s worth from GE.

  45. Apparently, it’s not officially over for people who are not enrolled in the TSA PreCheck program or Global Entry. I had it on two flights just last month. For one of them, however, there was no TSA line at my terminal although they told me there is always one at Terminal B at PHL. I was at Terminal C. However, I didn’t have to take off my shoes because I had PreChk on my boarding pass. I’m in the American Airlines Frequent Flyer program which supposedly how I used to get it.

  46. I applied for pre-check but had to wait a month for an interview, which I have not had yet. I applied because MSP has had terrible times at security lines due to changes. I flew MSP to LAS via PHX this week. My boarding pass out of MSP did not print with PreCheck but in the regular line they didn’t ask me to remove my jacket, shoes or my liquids. Someone asked the TSA agent what the deal was and they said they were trying something new. It was busy at the time so I’m not sure if they were trying to get through line, they did have a TSA dog perform the sniff test so maybe that is why we got passed through. I printed my boarding passes when leaving LAS and when I got to security they asked if I wanted to do pre-check. It printed on my boarding pass and I never thought to look so I was pretty shocked, I thought perhaps it printed because my information has been entered, but reading comments have learned this isn’t necessarily the case. I’m travelling again in a few weeks, I’ll have my interview done so hopefully it will officially be in place by that time. So in some cases travelers are getting lucky with PreCheck without paying or going through vetting process.

  47. My wife and I flew Southwest from Nashville to Phoenix and back last week. We both got TSA PreCheck on both flights and have not paid anything to get it. We almost always get it when we fly. Apparently the managed inclusion program is alive and well.

  48. When forty five percent of travelers are qualifying for pre-check, it means that the TSA recognizes that it does not need to quite-so-thoroughly screen everyone who travels in this country – which was always a multi-billion dollar sacrifice of national productivity upon the altar of political correctness. Charging a fee to acknowledge to travelers that they don’t need such thorough screening, and sell them back the time and energy that were taken by this idiocy in the first place restores TSA to the full top tier status of inept but corrupt government agencies by adding injury to the insult. All is now right in the Federal world again.

  49. Whenever liberals are in charge they do the same thing the Republicans do ON STEROIDS! They scream about freedom and big corrupt corporations but when it’s their turn to shine they hide behind closed doors and do it even worse!

    It’s like choosing to be slapped or hanged. Republicans you get slapped but Liberals if they don’t like you……………

  50. Recently flew R/T DC to Hawaii and had Pre-Check free both ways for my wife and me. Have had it free for quite some years. Have several international trips scheduled for this summer and fall. Never had Global Entry and am wondering if it’s worth the cost. Two trips will be with grandchildren, so does that mean they too have to be enrolled?

  51. My husband and I are neither frequent fliers nor members of any “trusted traveler” programs. We received TSA Pre-check status on 3 of 4 flights last month without applying, paying any fees, what have you. Wasn’t even aware of the 2 different security screening lines or what TSA pre-check even entailed, but darned glad I didn’t have to take off my shoes or pull out the ridiculous ziploc bag of approved liquids from my carry on. So sorry if we inconvenienced all of you experienced travelers out there.

  52. I’m getting it, never paid AND never wait longer than about 5 minutes. Seriously dude. Get over yourself. I’m 62 and I’ll bet I’ve traveled MANY more miles and airports than you and the 30 seconds you have to wait for some confused soul is just part of life. Get over it and be grateful for your fortunate life and don’t begrudge someone else getting a little something extra, whose life may be full of bigger struggles you know nothing about.

  53. I just checked my partner in for his flight tomorrow and he got TSA Pre without paying for it. He is only a Mileage Plus Premier Silver. We’ve gotten it together about 50% of the time but enough that we don’t slow down the line. Lol.

  54. Flew internationally in June and domestically in July (Delta, Alaska). Got Precheck both times, am not enrolled.

  55. Free TSA Pre-Check Is Officially NOT Over! My wife who is an infrequent flyer just got it for an international flight from JFK…

  56. We have been flying TSA precheck for the last couple years. It started when I clicked something when making our airline arrangements and entered our driver’s license numbers. Since that time – every flight has been tsa pre – until today. Today we are flying spirit airlines for the first time – and we are not pre-check. could it be because of the airline? We have flown american, delta, united, alaska, and on every flight we have been tsa precheck. Does this mean that we’ll have to purchase now? I thought we enrolled before they started selling it – and that we were “in.”

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