The Travel Detective

Travel Detective Blog: What’s Going Wrong with TSA PreCheck

Transportation_Security_Administration_officer_screening_a_bag-1Many of you have either heard about or become part of the TSA trusted traveler program called PreCheck. In theory, it’s a great idea. You show your encoded boarding pass, and you are then sent to a different lane where you don’t have to take off your shoes, your belt, your watch or other jewelry, and you can also leave your laptop in your bag.

It sounds great, except for a few problems. First, just because you may be a member of PreCheck does not guarantee you will get to go through that special lane. Randomly, the system will often opt you out of PreCheck. On my last five flights, I was declined PreCheck on two of them.

On 60 percent of my flights I was deemed trustworthy, but on 40 percent of my flights I was stopped from PreCheck. I’m either a trusted traveler or I’m not. That’s absurd.

The other problem with PreCheck is that it’s not available at all airports, or worse, it’s available at some airports but not at all security checkpoints. That also makes no sense.

And this morning, at the Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, Florida, came the latest TSA absurdity when it comes to PreCheck. I arrived at the airport at 6:45 am for my 8 am flight to New York. After checking in, I walked to the TSA checkpoint. I saw the sign for PreCheck. But as I got closer, a TSA agent came up to me and said, “Sorry, PreCheck isn’t open.”

Isn’t open? I asked.

And then, the TSA agent replied with an answer that defied logic. “No,” he said matter of factly, “We close it each morning at 7 am.”

CLOSE it at 7am? As if there were lots of 4 am flights departing Ft. Myers. “Shouldn’t you be OPENING PreCheck at 7am?” I asked. It seemed like the logical thing to do.

“Sorry,” he said, “We only go with the schedule they give us.”

So much for common sense at the TSA…And so much for PreCheck. But there’s another system in place for returning U.S. citizens returning home from overseas. And this program works like a charm: Global Entry. For $100, you get a pass good for five years that lets you bypass all customs and immigration lines, go to a kiosk, insert your passport; the kiosk then analyzes the prints of four fingers of your right hand. A photo is taken, you are handed your receipt and…off you go. This is one government-led program I support. Because it really, really works.

And for the TSA in Ft. Myers, you might want to adjust your work schedules to operate PreCheck when the bulk of the people actually fly.

Want to know more about TSA PreCheck? Check out these reports:

By Peter Greenberg for