TSA's Expedited Precheck Program Doesn't Guarantee You'll Always Whisk Through Security

We’ve written before about the Transportation Security Administration’s Precheck program, which is intended to allow prescreened travelers to get through airport screening checkpoints in a flash without having to kick off their shoes or wait in the snaking lines of sighing passengers. But membership in the program doesn’t guarantee that you’ll always zip through with a high-five from a TSA agent.

In fact, Precheck is actually designed so that there is always the chance that you may end up having to go through the standard screening process.

How it works: When you go up to the first TSA agent at a checkpoint, your ID is checked and your boarding pass is scanned. If you’re a Precheck member, you should be pointed to an expedited security line. But the TSA wanted a bit of unpredictability to the program, so random Precheck members will have to go through the standard checkpoint.

“I like Precheck, but it would be much more valuable to me if I were able to know before leaving for the airport whether or not I had Precheck approval for that day’s flights,” one member tells the Wall Street Journal.

Another registered Precheck traveler tells the paper that he only gets the expedited service about 80% of the time.

Currently, Precheck is an invite-only program tied to American Airlines and Delta frequent flier databases. The TSA will be adding airlines as they upgrade their frequent flier info to meet the screening criteria.

But you can slip into the program through a back door. The folks at Customs and Border Protection have a program called Global Entry that eases entry into the U.S. from international flights. It also has the added bonus of automatically making you a member of the Precheck program.

You can apply for Global Entry here, but it will cost you $100 to cover the cost of the background check. You will also need to go through an interview before being accepted.

$100 to Fly Through the Airport [WSJ.com]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.