Two of the greatest travel innovations of the past few years have been Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check. Global Entry has taken the frustration out of the immigration process, while TSA Pre-Check has taken the frustration out of the security process. Well, at least for the most part.
When TSA Pre-Check first started it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Very few people had registered for the program at the time, so not only were the travelers using the lane actually frequent travelers that knew “the drill,” but the lines were almost non-existent.
Then over time the experience was diluted substantially. Passengers that didn’t sign-up started randomly getting TSA Pre-Check. This didn’t just slow down the line because there were considerably more people using the checkpoints, but also because they didn’t know how to use them. So they’d still take everything out of their bags, set off the x-rays, etc. In many cases Pre-Check took longer than the “normal” security line.
There’s a Seattle Times article which discusses exactly this (and what’s about to change, which I’ll cover below):
One unintended consequence of sending uninitiated travelers into the PreCheck lanes was confusion. Frequent travelers who belonged to PreCheck or other trusted-traveler programs grumbled that PreCheck lanes on many occasions became clogged with bewildered passengers who held up lines by removing their shoes and jackets and behaving just as they have been conditioned to behave at regular checkpoint lanes.
What I didn’t realize is just how out of control the Pre-Check situation has gotten:
Of all domestic travelers, he said, “now we’re around 45 percent” for those receiving PreCheck. So far, the daily record has been close to half of passengers receiving PreCheck or some other form of “trusted traveler” expedited screening — slightly more than 1 million of the 2.1 million passengers screened by the agency on July 24, he said.
I knew it was bad, but I had no clue that in many cases nearly half of domestic passengers were eligible for Pre-Check. That’s crazy, given that typically at most a quarter of security lines are Pre-Check ones.
Well, it seems that the TSA Pre-Check experience is about to get a lot better:
If you’ve grown accustomed to being waved through the PreCheck security lanes at the airport without having paid to enroll in the popular program, time is running out. The program has been so successful that the agency is planning to limit it soon to those who enroll — and pay up.
With the PreCheck program on a solid footing, Pistole said, “We’ll start pulling back on the number of people who we include on a random, managed-inclusion basis, because we want to, frankly, cater to those who have actually signed up, and who we have the highest confidence in because we know the most about them.”
About 440,000 people have paid to enroll in the PreCheck program, which provides a quick pass through special airport-security checkpoints where travelers do not need to take off shoes or light outerwear, and are not required to remove laptops or liquids in the prescribed amounts from carry-on bags.
It’s time to do the happy dance, folks! It looks like the Pre-Check lines will actually go back to being extremely useful!
So, who’s excited?