Don’t you hate it when your reliable shortcut home becomes mainstream? Or when the coffee shop is always out of your favorite muffin due to high demand? It always ruffles some feathers when previously hidden gems become commonplace. Unfortunately, this may be happening with TSA PreCheck. In a recent article by USAToday, a number of travelers complain that TSA PreCheck is not all that it’s cracked up to be. They claim to watch travelers speed through traditional security lines, while they stand by in their PreCheck lines. In a service that’s main objective is to expedite security lines, what’s really happening here?
What is TSA PreCheck
This premium service provided by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) allows travelers to simply walk through security lines; without removing shoes, computers, light jackets, or even pausing for additional screening. It requires a formal application, fee, in-person interview, and background check conducted by the FBI to be included in the program. Once the traveler has been approved, they are free to use the TSA PreCheck lines at security gates.
In a recent survey of 2,500 North American travelers, 45% of fliers already enrolled in TSA PreCheck thought that the wait times were too long and the price was too high to be worth the membership. The same survey found this grievance was even higher among business travelers at 57%.
TSA rebutted with data, showing nationwide average wait times as five minutes, compared to less than 10 minutes for travelers in standard lines. Additionally, though the number of travelers signing up for TSA PreCheck is significantly lower than expected, it is continually growing. The program doubled from 2.3 million in March 2016 to 4.6 million in 2017.
What could be the potential issues?
If TSA PreCheck designed to speed fliers through security, what could be causing these unexpected inconveniences? There seems to be two main issues of contention here.
- Randomness arrival of travelers to the airport. There is no way of knowing when travelers will arrive and start through security for their day of travel.
- Continually providing free TSA Pre-Check status to other fliers. Though TSA announced earlier this year that they have begun limiting access to these expedited security lanes, most frequent travelers aren’t see the change. Overall, travelers are questioning why there are not more TSA employees stationed at these TSA Pre-Check lines.
Is TSA Pre-Check worth it?
It seems to depend on your expectations. For a one-time fee of $85 for five years, it truly depends on how often you travel and the price tag. Most travel experts say that if you travel more than twice a year, it’s worth being part of the program. Though it may be slightly delayed at times, PreCheck lines still average in the single digits for security wait times. New identification technology is being tested at some airports. This is expected to decrease security wait times in the future. If cost is still the hurdle for you, keep an eye open for occasional deals or incentives. For example, some credit cards with annual fees will reimburse the cost.