TSA Pre✓: A Brilliant Marketing Campaign?
I remember the days when the Transportation Security Administration was first created shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. There were two camps of people: one which abhorred the Transportation Security Administration and everything for which it represented, hoping that one day the agency would be abolished altogether; and the other who would do anything it took in the name of safety and security.
How times have changed.
We still have two camps of people pertaining to airport security in 2015 — but now they comprise of people who went through the background checks and interviews and paid for that privilege so that they may be processed through airport security checkpoints as quickly and efficiently as possible; and the other who believe that quick and efficient processing through airport security checkpoints should be available free of charge.
There are variants of those two camps — the latter of which may comprise of frequent fliers — but they are two distinct camps just the same.
It is not like we all are not already paying for security at airports in the United States, as anyone who purchases an airline ticket pays a minimum airport security fee of $5.60 per one-way trip imposed by the federal government of the United States effective as of July 21, 2014.
That $5.60 is more than the $2.50 per leg which we used to pay in security fees…
…and if you want expedited screening, it is yours for anywhere between $50.00 and $122.25 every five years, as shown in the comparison chart below illustrating four separate qualifying programs:
|Agency||Transportation Security Administration||Customs and Border Protection|
|Program||TSA Pre✓™||Global Entry||NEXUS||SENTRI|
|Eligibility Required||U.S. citizens and U.S. lawful permanent residents.||U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents and citizens of certain other countries.1||U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, Canadian citizens and lawful permanent residents of Canada.||Proof of citizenship and admissibility documentation.|
|Application Fee||$85.00 (5 year membership)||$100.00 (5 year membership)||$50.00 (5 year membership)||$122.25 (5 year membership)|
|Passport Required||No||Yes; or lawful permanent resident card||No||No|
|Application Process||Pre-enroll online, visit an enrollment center; provide fingerprints and verify ID.||Pre-enroll online, visit an enrollment center for an interview; provide fingerprints and verify ID.||Pre-enroll online, visit an enrollment center for an interview; provide fingerprints and verify ID.||Pre-enroll online, visit an enrollment center for an interview; provide fingerprints and verify ID.|
|Program Experience||TSA Pre✓™ expedited screening at participating airports.||Expedited processing through CBP at airports and land borders upon arrival in the U.S..Includes the TSA Pre✓™ experience.||Expedited processing at airports and land borders when entering the U.S. and Canada.
Includes Global Entry benefits.Includes the TSA Pre✓™ benefits for U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents and Canadian citizens.
|Expedited processing through CBP at land borders.
Includes Global Entry and TSA Pre✓™ benefits for U.S. citizens and U.S. lawful permanent residents.
|Ready to apply?||Apply for TSA Pre✓™ here||Apply for Global Entry here||Apply for NEXUS here||Apply for SENTRI here|
1For a list of eligible citizens, visit www.globalentry.gov
Perhaps my memory fails me; but there was a time where people were vociferous about privacy issues. Imagine voluntarily handing over your personal information to the federal government of the United States — and paying for the privilege, no less. Does that smack of “Big Brother”? At one time, that thought might have been considered ludicrous:
“I sure wonder how people in the United States would have felt 15 years ago to fill out an application and pay specifically for the privilege of enduring a background check and be fingerprinted — just to pass through an airport security checkpoint like we used to do in the ‘old days’…”
Now there are people who paid for one of the four programs listed in the above chart who say that people should not enjoy the expedited process at airport security checkpoints unless they pay for it as well.
Although I do understand their points of view, this led me to wondering whether or not the Transportation Security Administration spearheaded one of the most brilliant marketing schemes with its Pre✓ program. First, inconvenient policies bordering on draconian were implemented into the screening process at airports. Then the Pre✓ program was implemented to solve this issue for known travelers. Then members of frequent flier loyalty programs who earned elite level status were permitted to be a part of it free of charge on a random basis. Then wounded members of the armed forces were permitted to use it free of charge as of March of 2013. Then it was expanded in July of 2013 to anyone who was willing to pay $85.00 every five years to be a member of the program. Then people who neither paid to be members of the program nor had earned elite level status in a frequent flier loyalty program were randomly selected for expedited screening in designated Pre✓ lanes, which ironically potentially slowed the process down…
…and now being screened without pulling out your trusty bag of liquids — ensure that your liquids are comfortable in their quart-sized bag — or removing your shoes is available for a fee every five years. Some people who once scoffed at and lambasted the Transportation Security Administration and had their taste of the Pre✓ program are now ironically considering going through the process they once eschewed.
Hmm…didn’t everyone have that “luxury” at one time when passing through airport security checkpoints of not removing shoes or pulling out that bag of liquids? Am I missing something here?!?
Oh…that’s right…this is all in the name of “security” to keep us all safe. The skeptic in me keeps suggesting that this is little more than a “money grab” by the federal government…
…but what do I know? I then decided to view the latest debate on FlyerTalk regarding this very issue — and lo and behold, people from both camps are out in full force.
“Letting random people into that lane because they are old, or look nice defeats the entire purpose of the lane, and I’m happy it is ending.” I do not necessarily disagree with FlyerTalk member ScottC, who imparted that thought; but if those same people paid for the privilege, they will not go through the airport security checkpoint any faster or more efficiently.
“Think real hard about the security process – do you really think all of those measures are making flying any safer?” asked FlyerTalk member FlyingUnderTheRadar. I personally do not believe so; and I never did believe so.
“Clueless people in the Pre✓ lane annoys both the TSA officers and the frequent fliers to no end. This is a welcome and long-overdue change.” I believe that FlyerTalk member ThreeJulietTango might be confusing two issues with this thought. The people who may be “clueless” would not typically be the frequent flier with elite level status; but rather the occasional inexperienced traveler who is not familiar with the process. Why penalize the frequent flier — who can usually zip through the process faster than anyone — by now excluding them from the Pre✓ program?
Simple. The government wants more money. It has no competition. It can set the rules. Again, that is the skeptic in me suggesting that line of reasoning.
As I originally wrote in this article pertaining to the idea of allowing pocket knives, bats and clubs aboard commercial aircraft, I am all for ensuring that commercial aviation is as safe and as secure as possible for all who use it, as well as employed by it — but not at the expense of the convenience of passengers, nor at the expense of common sense. Eliminate the liquid restrictions, the shoe removal requirements, the needless harassment, and other seemingly ineffective policies for all airline passengers. Notice that I did not say for free. As I said, we all pay for security at airports with a mandatory fee imposed by the government which is added to our airfare…
…but like certain airlines which eliminate benefits which were once complimentary and later reintroduce them at a price — such as the policy for checked baggage as an example — so does the Transportation Security Administration come along and sell back certain policies which used to be available to all travelers free of charge.
What do you think: is how the Pre✓ program was handled by the Transportation Security Administration a brilliant marketing campaign — or something else entirely?