Finally, the TSA PreCheck Line Could Really Be Just for PreCheck Members

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill that would ensure that only trusted traveler program members are permitted to use the PreCheck security lanes.

Finally, the TSA PreCheck Line Could Really Be Just for PreCheck Members

Currently, when airport security lines start to get backed up, TSA will often allow non-PreCheck travelers to hop over to the PreCheck lane.

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For travelers who have diligently gone through the application process, background checks, and paid the $85 fee to become Transportation Security Administration (TSA) PreCheck members, there are probably few things more frustrating than PreCheck security lines stacked with non-PreCheck members.

But Congress is in the process of possibly ending this PreCheck line predicament. The U.S. House of Representatives last week passed the PreCheck is PreCheck Act of 2018, a bill that directs TSA to ensure that only travelers who are members of a trusted traveler program are allowed to use TSA PreCheck security screening lanes.

The only exception would be travelers under the age of 12 or over the age of 75 who are not members but are traveling on the same reservation as a PreCheck member.

At issue is the fact that when airport security lines start to get backed up, TSA often allows non-PreCheck travelers to hop over to the PreCheck lane in order to ease the backlog. The advantage of the PreCheck lane is that in addition to often being shorter than non-PreCheck lanes, travelers in these security lanes do not need to remove their shoes, belts, or jackets, and their laptops and liquids can remain in their carry-ons, further expediting the process.

Instead of allowing non-PreCheck travelers into the PreCheck lane, the bill directs TSA to create separate, modified screening lanes for non-PreCheck travelers deemed low-risk, but it did not specify what the modified screening measures would entail or how the low-risk passengers would be identified.

The PreCheck program has grown to more than 5 million travelers since it was launched in 2013. The agency reported last week that even amid a record-breaking 2018 summer travel season that saw TSA screen 253 million passengers and crew, 94 percent of TSA PreCheck members waited less than five minutes to get through security. TSA PreCheck is currently available at more than 200 airports throughout the United States.

TSA actually has five trusted traveler programs, three of which include membership in the TSA PreCheck program. There is the standalone PreCheck program, for which a five-year membership costs $85; the Global Entry program, which allows for expedited international arrival processing at a cost of $100 for a five-year membership (and includes PreCheck); NEXUS, for expedited travel between the United States and Canada, a $50 five-year membership that includes PreCheck; the $122.50 five-year SENTRI program for expedited border crossing between the United States and Mexico; and the $50 five-year FAST program designed for commercial truck drivers who frequently travel between the United States, Mexico and Canada.

Following its House passage last week, the PreCheck bill has moved on to the Senate floor where it will be put up for debate. The bill also mandates TSA to implement a long-term strategy of increasing enrollment in the TSA PreCheck program. So, while there may be many fewer non-PreCheck members padding the PreCheck lines if the bill gets signed into law, there may also be a few more PreCheck members to contend with over the long term.

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Michelle Baran is a deputy editor at AFAR where she oversees breaking news, travel intel, airline, cruise, and consumer travel news. Baran joined AFAR in August 2018 after an 11-year run as a senior editor and reporter at leading travel industry newspaper Travel Weekly.
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