The TSA Brags About Scooting 1 Million Passengers Through PreCheck Screening

The Transportation Security Administration trumpeted last week that it had screened a whole one million passengers through its brand new accelerated screening program, PreCheck. But although that seems like a high number, it’s really just the very tip of a large, slow-moving iceberg.

The L.A.Times notes that yes, one million passengers is a lot, but not so much when compared with the fact that the TSA screens a total of around 1.8 million passengers per day at the country’s 450 commercial airports.

So since the PreCheck program launched in October, the TSA has pushed about 335 million passengers through security. And only one million of those used the PreCheck program.

“In the context, 1 million is a very, very small number,” said Chris McLaughlin, assistant administrator for security operations at TSA. He added that the benefits of PreCheck to accelerate the overall system are still too small to calculate.

PreCheck is currently at 14 airports, and pre-approves passengers for American, Delta and Alaska that submit background info the TSA before heading to the airport. Those passengers are then allowed to go through a screening lane where they can leave on shoes, belts and coats, and save about half the time of normal passengers.

PreCheck lets travelers who volunteer background information to the TSA ahead of time go through special screening lanes without removing shoes, belts and coats. It cuts the estimated screening time as much as 50% for those who use it. As we’ve noted before, you still might end up going through standard screening, even if you’re signed up for PreCheck.

The program is set to expand by the end of 2012, and open in around 35 airports total. The airports involved serve around 90% of the nation’s travelers, says McLaughlin.

“By the end of this calendar year, we will be at a place where PreCheck will be contributing positively to the overall system,” he said.

TSA logs 1 million users of PreCheck program [The L.A. Times]


Edit Your Comment

  1. bhr says:

    So, I’m taking odds on the first comment mention of:
    Security Theater
    Papers Please
    Evil Obama
    Evil Bush

  2. winstonthorne says:

    Since I could still be pulled out of the pre-check lane, I still have to arrive hours before my flight. It doesn’t matter to me whether I spend those hours staring out the window at the departure gate or shuffling through the security chute with the rest of the cattle.

    Useless program is useless.

  3. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    My sister paid only around $20 for a (I think) United package that included a fast-screening feature where you got screened normally but you avoided the lines for screening and went straight through a separate line. She spoke positively about it.

  4. Brontide says:

    *SMH* the logical inconsistencies and statistical nightmare of leaving some to lesser screening just boggles.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      No, it doesn’t, so long as:

      a) you recognize that the “reduced” screening is entirely sufficient, and could be expanded to every passenger, tomorrow, with virtually zero impact on actual security,


      b) you recognize that the TSA won’t just admit point A, since nobody in gov’t has the guts to stand up and say that there are always some risks, and that we just have to deal with them.

      Given A and B, PreCheck makes total sense.

  5. Starfury says:

    I recently flew from San Jose to San Diego and back on Southwest. Trip down was easy; got there early, security took 15 min and plane left late. Way back San Diego’s Southwest gates (1 and 2) have the new scanners where you do the dance. Apparently NOT taking my wallet and a piece of paper out of my pockets was an issue so I got patted down after exiting the machine. The TSA also decided they needed to check my suitcase as well since I found a note in there that they’d searched it. Two weeks of dirty clothing and some toiletries…hope they found it exciting to dig through.

    • Brontide says:

      I have never flown and not gotten that slip of paper in my luggage.

      • Arctic Snowbot says:

        Oh good for you adding so much to this topic. I fly every three weeks and I forgo the checked bag ever since I got my first screening note. I lost my favorite-at-the-time t-shirt, and hate the TSA for life.

  6. Press1forDialTone says:

    Oh goody I love to be first, here ‘ya go Mr/Ms Good Morning Starshine:

    Although the TSA is just part of the larger US Security Theater
    designed to ferret out the baddies from the goodies in the vast
    herd of “Sheeple” that is the United States.

    It is a variant of the “Papers Please” (or rather “shoes please”)
    legislation from Arizona sweeping the nation’s states by the RepubliThug(tm)
    governors who will soon be our feudal lords or “master of sharecroppers”
    if we don’t stop them soon.

    They of course refer to our excellent President (imagine having to clean up
    the feces that “Evil Bush” left behind in his ignorant wake) as “Evil Obama”

    How’s that?

    • Coleoptera Girl says:

      If Obama wanted to end the TSA, he could. He is ultimately in charge of DHS which is in charge of TSA. He doesn’t want to end it or the Patriot Act. He agrees with Bush’s policies, obviously.

      • mikedt says:

        It would be political suicide. No matter how much the “average” person bitches about the TSA, the average person feels safe because of them. Eliminate the TSA and the political ads would be on tv tomorrow saying Obama is light on terrorism/security/safety/children.

    • bhr says:

      Well done. Well done indeed. Bravo good sir.

    • bhr says:

      Well done. Well done indeed. Bravo good sir.

  7. pridkett says:

    This is somewhat deceptive. First, until January, there were FAR fewer airports that had PreCheck. From a Delta perspective it was just ATL and DTW. In late January and early February they added in a couple of their other hubs, MSP, SLC, and SEA. Major hubs such as JFK, EWR, LGA, LAX, IAD, ORD, etc still lacked it. It’s only recently that it’s been really expanded.

    Secondly, as a Delta frequent flier, I was automatically enrolled. I didn’t have to pay any money, submit to an additional background check, go through an interview, or anything like that. Although, when you fly 100+ times a year, I’m certain that the TSA has gotten to know me (Hi, John at JFK T2, you’re always so nice when you give me a pat-down).

    Finally, as someone who gets to use PreCheck, I have to say it’s AWESOME when you can do it. You’re through security in about 30 seconds. Dump everything on the conveyer and stroll right through. Heck, you can even leave your jacket on.

    But there is a huge drawback. You can’t guarantee you’ll be able to use it. They say that they randomly decide if a person gets to use it. I’ve had a time when I was flying in and out the same day. I got PreCheck cleared on the first flight, but not the return that night. This means that you can’t plan on getting there 20 minutes later because you don’t have to wait for security.

  8. 8bithero says:

    It really pisses me off that the US government sees me worthy of a TS clearance, but this dog and pony show want me to pony up my info to the specifically.

  9. dush says:

    According to precheck even if you are in this program you can still be randomly searched.

    • pridkett says:

      This is correct. I’ve gone through airports with precheck 12 times now. I’ve gotten expedited through the precheck line 11/12 times. The “random” search just means you’ll go through the regular security.

  10. David in Brasil says:

    Am I the only person who bristles at the idea of having two classes of government service – one for those who pay extra and one for those who don’t? What’s next – can I pay $5 extra and go to the front of the line at the IRS ? Don’t get me wrong – discrimination during threat assessment is vital; you can’t treat everyone the same. But the discrimination criterion for faster screening service shouldn’t be whether you ante up $100 to be in the Global Traveler or PreCheck programs.

  11. jp7570-1 says:

    I call BS on TSA’s program. I qualified for their pre-screening program in two ways – the Global Entry program (where I paid to voluntarily let them do a background check), and American Airlines’ elite-level frequent flyer program. Of the 20 times I’ve tried to use the PreCheck lines, I’ve only “qualified” once. Almost every time, the TSA agent says “you were not selected for this pre-screening”.

    WTF?? I know it has to include a certain amount of arbitrariness for “security reasons”, but if I’ve already been pre-screened and pre-approved by TSA, then why are they refusing me the ability to use this service? This whole program remains a joke.