TSA Pre✓ to Be Expanded to More Passengers — For a Fee, Of Course

A sign announcing that Pre✓ is coming to the international airport in Santa Ana. Photograph by FlyerTalk member jasonvr. Click on the photograph for a discussion pertaining to Pre✓ for passengers traveling on United Airlines.

Will passengers be clamoring to pay $85.00 for five years of the Pre✓ program offered by the Transportation Security Administration of the United States?
I have used Pre✓ as an elite member of a frequent flier loyalty program, and I must say that it was nice speeding through LaGuardia Airport in New York in fewer than two minutes. No taking off my shoes. No waiting for the passenger in front of me to get his or her act together before going through the airport security checkpoint. No need to “opt-out” and get groped because a walk-through metal detector is used instead of a millimeter wave or backscatter scanning device.
I thought it was great, saying to myself that this is the way one should get through an airport security checkpoint…
…until I realized during my next thought was that this generally was the way passengers went through airport security checkpoints in the past before there even was a Transportation Security Administration.
Has the Transportation Security Administration taken a page from the airlines? Take away a privilege which passengers once regularly enjoyed and keep it unavailable for a period of time; then eventually offer it once again for a fee when this privilege is missed?
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” — before September 11, 2001 when several terrorists armed with box cutters passed through airport security checkpoints to commandeer commercial airplanes containing passengers and use those airplanes as powerful bombs to blow up iconic buildings and kill thousands of people…
…and we certainly do not have to keep in mind that it was actually permitted to carry those box cutters aboard airplanes back then — meaning that no amount of security measures being implemented today would have stopped those box cutters from being carried aboard by potential terrorists.
To think that a controversial announcement released by the Transportation Security Administration earlier this year revealed that pocket knives were amongst a number of items which would have been allowed aboard aircraft.
If I did not know any better, I would suspect that the Transportation Security Administration is becoming more of a business concern than an agency of the federal government of the United States whose main “concern” is for the safety of the traveling public.
FlyerTalk members tend to agree, though — calling this latest move by the Transportation Security Administration “extortion” and paying “‘extra’ to get the type of screening we ALL should be getting anyway.”
Current Pre✓ participants — including those eligible via a Customs and Border Protection Trusted Traveler Program such as Global Entry — will continue to receive Pre✓ eligibility.
Not all passengers will benefit, however — only American citizens will be permitted to lighten their wallets and purses by $85.00 for a privilege once enjoyed for free. If you are not an American citizen, do not worry. I am rather certain that the Transportation Security Administration will eventually figure out a way for you to purchase the privilege of using Pre✓ — for a significantly higher fee complete with a far more extensive background check, of course.
So tell me: what is the difference in commercial aviation safety between passengers paying $85.00 versus not paying at all for what is essentially the same type of airport security screening as what was considered routine before September 11, 2001?
  1. Amazing, simply amazing. I am a little nonchalant as I do as a Delta PM soon to be DM, have TSA precheck. To my mind you should have the standard metal detectors for all and only if there is an anomaly have to endure the millimeter back scatter test.
    Being cynical I do agree that they will figure out a way to allow non-citizens a way provided they pay an exhorbitantly higher fee. Money makes the world go round- so sang Liza Minneli in Cabaret.

  2. Is Precheck going to be available to all who want to pony up the fee? I thought it was restricted to “trusted travelers” – which really implies frequent fliers, as that’s something that is a part of the TT application IIRC.

  3. scnzzz, It will be like a Global Entry Lite with a background check similar to the one for Global Entry. From a NYT article in April
    “The T.S.A. is working to expand eligibility for PreCheck beyond high-volume travelers chosen by airlines. The agency’s administrator, John S. Pistole, told me he wanted to develop a domestic program that he called “Global Entry Lite,” partly using Global Entry criteria, to increase PreCheck eligibility. “

  4. Does this mean that it will be even less “random”? It’s even more outrageous if someone pays the $85 and still has some of the abysmally low clearance rates reported here.

  5. The clearance is rate is close to 100% if you have Global Entry. I know – 99% of my boarding passes on Delta and United say “TSA PRECHK.” The exception is always due to very unusual circumstances – like having a flight cancelled and then being re-booked the next day but less than 24 hours later. There is still an occasional RANDOM surprise while you are in the TSA Pre-Check Lane, like getting your hands swabbed for explosives – but you still get all the benefits of the TSA Pre-Check Lane. I lament the fact of having more passengers eligible, but most passengers won’t pay the $85 fee because they either don’t travel enough or are simply ignorant of the benefits and how to qualify. They can get Global Entry for just $15 more, yet very few passengers have signed up for it.

  6. Funny but I NEVER get to use TSA Pre at Newark. It is ALWAYS closed when I get there. The other day I was there at 5:30 on a Friday and it was closed for some sort of inspection. Sunday I was there and it was closed at 7:00 PM however there were at least 20 Pre people that came by while I was standing there trying to get thru on Pre. I am told that it is open from 4 AM until 7 PM. Who is on these planes at 4 AM if the first flights arent until 5:30 AM or so. Isnt that the point of Pre – get thru FASTER so why get there that much earlier? It is also not in many of the airports that I have been to so I wouldnt pay extra for it.

  7. The $85 is simply a domestic-ony version of the $100 Global Entry / $50 NEXUS, basically for those who don’t have passports. (Anyone who has a passport and ever travels internationally, it would make more sense to get Global Entry or NEXUS or Sentri, right?)
    For those that don’t know, NEXUS is for Canada only (both air and land crossings, in both directions), but also includes Global Entry. Sentri is for Mexico (but land crossings only).

  8. I don’t see why anyone would do this just to get Pre-Check when for $15 more, you can get Global Entry and get TSA Pre-Check that way.
    Or if you live near Canada, get Nexus for $50 and get TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry in the bargain.

  9. Yup, plus if you have Nexus you get CATSA’s Trusted Traveller program as well which is their equivalent of Pre on domestic flights.

  10. And then there is the issue of only a small number of US airports even HAVE these Pre-Check lanes in the first place…nothing like seeing the logo on your BP & then realizing it means nothing in that specific airport (as was the case this morning)

  11. I also had the old Flyclear, which Pre-check resembles. It is a voluntary trade – you have to reveal lots of personal information, and make time for an interview (they seem booked ahead for months in most places) in return for which you get through security faster – where they have it. I am in a major metropolitan area, and generally fly a lot for business though other major US metropolitan areas (many of which have pre-check) or to Europe where after a 8-10 hour flight back I get to go through GOES. The time I save is worth it to me. Might not be to someone else.
    Of course, if everyone signs up, the benefit might decrease, but right now, I like it. I can wish flying was as easy as it was pre-9/11, but that is not going to stop me from doing what I can to avoid hour-long security lines and customs lines. I wish air travel in general was less of a pain, but if I have to do it, it makes a huge difference to me if I can make it as easy as possible.
    Also, I think the long-term plan is that at some point GOES will become reciprocal with other countries that have similar programs such as the Netherlands and France. Avoiding long customs lines at both ends of a flight would be nice.

  12. Even though NEXUS is only $50, it (like Global Entry) requires that you already have a passport. If you don’t ever leave the country, and thus don’t need a passport, it’s more expensive to get a passport and then apply for NEXUS, than to just apply for this new $85 domestic-only version.
    So this $85 domestic-only version makes sense for those who don’t have a passport. It probably doesn’t make sense (compared to NEXUS or Globabl Entry) for most of those who do have a passport.
    Not all frequent fliers fly internationally. Some just fly around the US on business, some just repeatedly visit friends & family within the US by air.

  13. I have Global Entry ($100) and am enrolled in Pre, but have only gotten the expedited screening process once of the dozens of times I tried. All of my information matches that of the airline, so I can’t figure out what the problem is.

  14. I have an AmEx Platinum which reimburses the $100 for Global Entry. I travel International about 3-6 times a year, it was and has been worth it to me. I would have paid for it even if it was not a benefit from AmEx Plat. I’ve just been lucky enough to have expedited service each time. It also depends if the Airline is part of the “TSA Pre-Check” program.
    SWA does not offer it and talking to friends that work for the airline, they don’t see SWA being a part of the program anytime soon.
    When I applied for my G.E. about a year ago, the initial application took about a month to process. Once approved I had to set up an interview time. I had to travel to another major metropolitan city about 2hrs away to interview with ICE. Wait in line for about 30 minutes, watch a video for about 20 minutes then interview for about 15 minutes.
    My friends did it last month and it took all of about 5 minutes total time. It took longer to find a parking space at the airport than the interview process. It was also offered in the city we live in so they did not have to travel 2hrs to another major hub city for the interview.
    I recall that I had to log into my GOES account to add the TSA Pre-Check. It is not automatic, at least not then.
    Safe travels.

  15. I have added my trusted traveler number to my FF profile for each of the handful of airlines I have usually been flying with, which means TSA Pre-Check is marked on my boarding pass. I don’t know what would happen if it wasn’t – I’ve never tried. Maybe use my GOES ID card (though I usually don’t travel with it)?
    Before I was a frequent flyer, I really didn’t keep up with my FF accounts, and tended to use Orbitz rather than the airline wesite to book and track my flights (though I still use Orbitz for planning my flights and comparing airlines, a well as booking some things). So maybe non-frequent flyers will find using Pre-Check too much of a complicating factor.

  16. This “expansion” is just another way to get money from you. If your departing airport does not participate in pre – check, it makes zero difference even though your airline may be participating. Until all the airports are on line with this, there is only the advantage for those 40 or so airports that already have this happening. TSA’s horrible machines still return 54% false positives for the general public requiring “enhanced pat down” aka assault, and 100% false positives for disabled people. (Statistics were published by the German Parliament. TSA will not release the fail and false positive rate as the hue and cry would be enormous! The stats on these AIT machines are so disgusting they would gag a buzzard!) I would probably participate in something if it meant that we who live with disabilities were not subjected to the horrors I have to deal with every time I fly. I am so grateful that I can still drive and thus only have to fly on rare occasions, but the last time I flew, TSA maimed me and I will carry the scars for the rest of my life.

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