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Wait...the TSA is Sending People to Precheck Who Aren't Prechecked?

March 10, 2014 at 9:00 AM | by | ()

If you've been traveling of late, you might have noticed that the TSA has a new strategy of expediting the security screening process, filtering travelers going through general security into the dedicated precheck line at random.

We've seen it at different airports across the country, most recently in Denver and Philly. There's usually a TSA employee standing at a fork in the cattle-call line, and an iPad randomizer determines your fate as to which way you are sent through security. If the arrow points one way, you go through the normal screening lines. But if it points the other, you get to join the TSA precheck line where you, a person who has not signed up for precheck and has not been prescreened, is not required to remove your shoes, laptop, or outer layers.

We were in line for security at DIA in Denver the other day when it all clicked in our head. By doing this, the TSA is sending people through precheck that haven't been prechecked. This is mind-boggling on so many levels. What's the point of prechecking people if those who use TSA precheck aren't prechecked?

Obviously, the TSA doesn't view it as a security threat, or presumably they wouldn't be doing it. If that's the case, and general travelers who wear shoes and keep their jackets on are not threats, then why are is the general traveler required to remove them? Why can't everyone play by those rules? Why are some people paying and getting interviewed for precheck when any random person is apparently qualified to go through it?

This contributor personally doesn't use precheck or global entry, and when I ranted about why, I expressed my concerns about paying extra to bypass an inefficient process that our tax-dollars are funding. This is another example of why I think the whole "fast-pass" thing is bogus. We're sending people through precheck who haven't been prechecked, and it's perfectly fine and perfectly safe. Given this, it is hard not to entertain thoughts that the general screening system is intentionally set up to be frustrating and inefficient in the name of safety in order to get people to pay more for precheck. Or, at the very least, they are shuffling passengers through the precheck line as a form of marketing the program. If there was a security issue and a correlation regarding people who haven't been prechecked and the removal their shoes, etc., then it would not be happening right in front of our eyes, would it?

Because the precheck program requires a dedicated x-ray machine and body scanner separate from those that handle general screening, my personal hypothesis is that the TSA is trying to cut down on the increased wait time in general screening that resulted from taking one away. And, in the process, it has not only disrespected those who have interviewed and paid for precheck, but also revealed how unnecessary many of its general screening policies are.

[Photo: Will McGough]

Archived Comments:

Love it, but not paying

I love getting sent through Precheck, and it's happened to me a few times. I can remember being waved to the Precheck lines at SEA and PHX in particular. I am not a paying member of the Precheck program, however; i'm just a normal traveler to them. So this is happening. Sometimes the Precheck line is longer, and I'll hope for the normal route, even it involves shoe and laptop removal.


I witnessed this last November in Albany, NY. I'm just waiting in the now way too common long Precheck line and a TSA person has the iPad in the regular line and is sending people over to Precheck. What's the point of Precheck if anybody can end up in the line?