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 screening, where they don’t have to take off their shoes, or take their liquids or laptops out of their bags.
Meanwhile Global Entry allows for expedited customs & immigration, where eligible travelers can just use kiosks at immigration, rather than having to queue for an agent.
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,” where elite members of airlines and many other passengers deemed “low risk” got access to Pre-Check as well.
While I don’t take issue with managed inclusion from a safety standpoint (since I don’t think Pre-Check is actually any less safe than the standard screening), what was annoying was the degree to which it slowed down lanes. It’s not just that they were adding people to the Pre-Check lanes, but much worse was that the people being added were largely less experienced travelers, who didn’t know “the drill.”
For the past couple of years we’ve heard about the TSA limiting Pre-Check eligibility going forward, as a means of getting people to sign up. Then last September it seemed like things were about to get a lot better, as it was reported that TSA was limiting Pre-Check to those enrolled in a Trusted Traveler program. Based on how it was reported, that should have been the end of “free” Pre-Check.
At the time I shared the following from 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.
Well, unfortunately that’s not actually how it worked in practice, as many people have probably noticed over the past several months. The TSA is still letting non-registered passengers into Pre-Check lanes.
What gives? Via Skift:
While the agency ultimately wants to restrict the quicker lanes to only those who have enrolled in expedited security programs, that has not happened yet. And there is no time frame for doing so.
“I actually have had to reach out to a few reporters to clarify that,” said Mike England, TSA’s national spokesman. “There was a little bit of confusion.”
What has actually changed since last September, which seemed to cause this confusion?
The change in September was the end of a practice called Managed Inclusion II, which included swabbing passengers’ hands to detect traces of explosives and using behavior detection tactics before sending them into the fast lane.
But the agency continues to use Managed Inclusion I, where passengers who are screened by TSA canines can be sent to PreCheck lanes. And travelers who are not enrolled in the program may still get a TSA PreCheck designation on their boarding pass when their Secure Flight information — name, date of birth and gender — is matched against security databases.
It seems we can continue to expect lots of non-registered flyers to use the Pre-Check lanes. I will say that I’ve noticed a decrease in Pre-Check passengers compared to last September, though the change hasn’t been that drastic.
It seems the restrictions on TSA Pre-Check over the past several months haven’t been as drastic as many of us have hoped. The changes have been quite minor, and involve specific aspects of the managed inclusion program.
I understand where the TSA is coming from, in the sense that a certain percentage of passengers need to use the lanes in order for them to be justifiable. At the same time, they seem a long way off their goal of 25 million travelers being enrolled in TSA Pre-Check, given that they’re at a total of ~6.2 million enrolled travelers as of now.
Don’t expect the TSA to close off Pre-Check to non-members anytime soon.
Have you noticed any change in Pre-Check lanes the past few months?
(Tip of the hat to TravelinWilly)