Airport Etiquette – Is It Okay To Ditch Your Companion For TSA PreCheck?

by on May 1, 2013 · 45 comments

in TSA

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In the security line at JFK yesterday as my mother and I prepared to depart for Chile yesterday, I was told that my boarding pass was cleared for TSA PreCheck and I faced an airport etiquette conundrum – should I abandon my mom in the longer security line and go through the much quicker PreCheck without her, or should I stick with her and wait?

I was surprised that I was allowed to use PreCheck since according to the FAQ page on the TSA site, At this time, TSA Pre✓™ is only available for passengers traveling domestically on participating airlines. If any leg of an itinerary is international, the passenger will not qualify for TSA Pre™ for that itinerary and will go through traditional screening.

Expect security lines to get a lot longer if budget cuts go into effect.

I’m not sure if it was just a glitch or if the TSA is relaxing this rule for the domestic legs of international itineraries, but it was an interesting situation.

I was going to stay in the Priority AAccess line with my mom (we were flying business class and it looked like it would only take 10 minutes), but she said I was being silly and that I should go through PreCheck since why go through the hassle of taking off my shoes, getting my laptop out and taking out my liquids if I didn’t have to?

So I did. And that’s when the reader comments started coming in on Facebook and Twitter!

I had Tweeted: “I qualified for Precheck but my mom didn’t so I left her in the regular elite line. Am I a bad son?”

Screen shot 2013-05-01 at 11.00.49 AM

And here’s what folks on Twitter had to say:

“Depends on how hard your shoes, belt, etc. were to get on and off. ;)”

“Within a month of Mother’s Day?? Unacceptable”

“Ok, if you wait for her some points are redeemed (no pun intended)”

“She probably would have done the same.” You’re right!

The comments came flooding in on Facebook.

The comments came flooding in on Facebook.

On Facebook people were even more opinionated. Here are some of my favorite comments:

“Yes. Man up and wait for her. She waited around 9 months waiting for you. Not sure business class and Easter Island tops bringing you into the world. You owe her big time.”

“Lol! I don’t think so. Plus, I’m sure you got her ticket in the first place. You already scored bonus points for spending time with Mom!”

“Not if you show up with coffee and donuts at the other end.”

“Tell her to meet you in the lounge!” Well I did take her with me to the Flagship Lounge, which got me out of the doghouse.

“I left my GF in immigration today whilst I strolled through Global Entry.”

“I think you can leave spouses or other traveling companions… but maybe not a mom. Bet she wasn’t bothered about it though.”

“And at least she got the elite lane. It’s not like you abandoned her to a 45 minute wait!”

I loved this one: “I had enough points for only one first class ticket – so I left my husband in economy – am I a bad wife!?”

And then there was my mom’s response on Facebook: “Actually Brian did start out in line with me but I encouraged him to do the TSA access. He is a good guy – and, yes, I will be accepting flowers and alcohol.”

In the end, my mom didn’t care at all, and I only beat her through by a couple minutes and was waiting for her on the other end. Plus we had lots of quality time ahead of us on our flights to Miami and then on to Santiago.

Even though I left her behind in security, my mom and I had a great time en route and are enjoying Chile!

Even though I left her behind in security, my mom and I had a great time en route and are enjoying Chile!

But it did raise some interesting questions about the dynamics of traveling with a less-frequent or less-elite flyer who can’t go through expedited security and I wanted to hear what all of you think?

Is it appropriate to go through TSA PreCheck and leave your companion in a longer security line?

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How about with Global Entry, where customs and immigration lines can be very long…

Is it okay to use Global Entry and leave your companion in a longer customs and immigration line?

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Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • janakj

    My SO and I went through this situation once. The TSA person urged me to go through PreCheck, so my solution on the spot was to carry as many of our bags as I could, so that she had less to deal with in the regular FF line. I think I took everything but her purse with ID. This provided both of us with a win. (Not getting into legal issues of bag ownership; I ended up carrying her laptop bag, but we pack bags together, so I think I was still being faithful to the spirit of the law.)

    My long-term solution is that I got Global Entry for her, and now we both go through PreCheck every time. :)

  • zeppo2

    Get through Pre-Check and go get her a Starbucks. She’ll forgive you.

  • AA@DFW

    Hugely surprising that you qualified. I’ve gone to the Precheck kiosk countless times on an international jounrey here at DFW having fogotten that international travel didn’t “count” and have been turned back every time!

  • Jerry

    hahaha you’re so bad

    even you checked in before her, your flight would be leaving at the same time anyway :)

    it could have been even worth if you brought Miles with you and that Miles was able to check in before your mom ^^

  • RakSiam

    With GE presumably you are both going to leave the airport together anyway so I’m not sure exactly what you gain by doing GE instead of waiting with your companion. You’re going to have to wait for them anyway. At least with precheck you avoid the hassle of taking your clothes off and emptying your bag.

  • Andrew

    The big question – why in the world are you still taking your liquids out of your bag?

  • Alexander Hickman

    I’d encourage Global Entry purchase because it is worth it for how many years you get it for $100. And it can be done in an airport you are connecting through. I wouldn’t leave my mom or gf in long line in immigration lol.

  • Donn

    I’m Global Entry my wife’s not. I always leave her get car and by time she’s out I’m back usually.

  • W Brian Duncan (aka IPBrian)

    I leave my poor wife all the time…of course she has her precheck interview soon so she might do the same to me…I totally understand! We just wait on the other side or at the lounge.

  • ben senise

    personally i would stick with the person i’m travelling with be it a parent, spouse, or even a friend (or heaven forbid a co-worker!)
    It’s just being polite.

  • Rob

    Mom, spouse/GF/partner or children? Unacceptable.
    Friends and colleagues? It’s OK, especially if you take them into a club as a guest.

    I flew with friends last week, outbound and inbound. Both times they urged me to go ahead, I took some of their stuff and then just sat at the other side of the check point. They where on a regular line.

  • Justin

    You could’ve used it to expedite the process for both of you… take her computer, liquids, etc with your stuff…

  • Andre LaPlume

    Those whose moms are no longer around would kill to have the chance to
    wait on line with her.

  • MiamiMike2

    Had this dilemma once with my fiance. Ended up waiting with her but hated having to do the whole shoes/laptop/belt routine. Paid for her GE app the next day and just told her Amex picked up the tab so she wouldn’t complain that it was a waste of money since she doesn’t travel that often. Told her I paid for it months later and she admitted it was worth ever penny. Now we fly through security in 2 minutes in Miami where even the priority access line can be a nightmare.

  • El_Prez

    This is not an ETIQUETTE question, this is a personal preference depending on your relationship with your Mom. MY mother I would not leave alone, as she is frail and we don’t need another broken hip. My Dad sure no probem. In my family of four for example it’s not practical to sit right together anyhow, how many times do you see a nice neat row of 4 seats open, meaning 2+2 or 3+1? Rarely. We usually book separate tickets splitting up 1 parent with 1 child.

  • Oldsmoboi

    Sounds like the next mother’s day gift should include a completed app for Global Access.

  • Kevin Jemison

    As far as TSA Pre on an international trip goes, I had a simmilar experience on my trip to Buenos Aires last week. It seems that the system is simply not linked to your itinerary, its just checking to see if you are TSA Pre or not. On my way out I went through the TSA Pre no problem, on my way back the machine gave the green light but i mistakenly handed the TSA agents both boarding passes and he said I couldn’t go through due to the international segment.

  • MoykeK

    MP understands; I ain’t waiting!!

  • joeypore

    This is a great topic!! My mom still doesn’t have precheck for some reason, so when we’re at the airport, I always go through precheck (if I get cleared) and then wait for her on the other side. She doesn’t mind, as it’s just less hassle for me. With Global Entry, I’m almost always flying solo (ha), but when I am with other people, I usually just go look for our bags (if we have them) and wait for them before I exit customs all together. Plus, while I’m sipping my pre-arrival beverage on the flight, I really don’t want to fill out that annoying blue form.

  • joeypore

    Yup. It’s up to the agent to determine. Bummer for direct flights.

  • joeypore

    You can only have one bag of liquids. Though, they rarely notice if you have more. I don’t think I’ve ever been stopped from forgetting to take my liquids out.

  • joeypore

    He connected through to an international flight. So if you just give them a domestic ticket, they don’t know that you’re on an int’l journey, neither does the kiosk.

  • Kristen Arland

    My husband has gotten Precheck numerous times on our international flights. Mostly we fly thought Miami and he’s been given it on various legs of the journey from ORD and MIA. When we went to Grand Cayman in February, I was allowed to go through with him even though I didn’t have it. When we went to Virgin Gorda with the 2 kids in March, he had it again and they let me and our son who is 11 go through with him, but for some reason our 13 year old was allowed to come in the Precheck line and then had to take her shoes off and go through on her own. They us put all her stuff through with ours, but made her take her shoes off and walk through a separate line. It was bizarre.

  • AKold

    The correct answer is to sign your mom up for Global Entry/Pre-Check. That’s what I did with my folks … took them to the interview on our way to India, they were able to use GE on the way back together.

  • MSJ

    I had the same situation with my girlfriend. I told her that as I travel so much I try to avoid the radiation of the new style scanner and the Pre had the old style. As she is into health she totally understood…I think :)

  • APage

    I would ditch my friends in a heartbeat. But girlfriend or mom, gotta be a gentleman and stick it out.

  • Rob philip

    I’ve had TSA precheck on the domestic leg of international flights for months. I don’t think they’ve ever followed the rules… The key is that United, at least, seems to mess up my name for International flights and I need to call them and have them update it to reflect the TSA version of my name.

    As for taking the faster line – I have done it, and then politely waited for my companion to make it through the regular process. It’s not like it’s a deeply meaningful bonding moment going through security at the airport. Everyone should take the easiest path. What I *have* done it grab my friend’s carryon so they don’t have to take out laptop and liquids and the like. That’s a nice favor.

  • Aris

    I would have stuck with her. I wouldn’t leave my mom, dad, or anyone by themselves just for TSA Pre✓™ The other option would be Priority line from your elite status so everyone on your reservation has it. I would have gone through the Priority line with her rather than TSA Pre✓™.However, from a Global Entry perspective if we had a lot of luggage I would blow through and get luggage first before it gets crowded.

  • Andre LaPlume

    Wait til she sees your post!

  • artyam

    I would have been a gentleman and stayed with my Mother. You had a choice and made the wrong one in my opinion!

  • Mary

    My DH went thru Precheck without me just a few weeks ago. He took the kids with him, so I was good with it!

  • Kate Kosche

    My husband has dual citizenship and can go through the shorter EU lines when we land in Europe (usually Heathrow). I, however, am stuck in the ginormous non-EU line. I would KILL him if he bailed out and took advantage of this.

  • Tricia

    I guess I’m not sure why anyone would NOT wait….you just end up waiting on the other side anyway and someone is stuck in a long line with no one to talk to. However, as a mom, I would have said the same thing your mom said, but I would have secretly hoped my son would wait with me anyway. (ie: It would have been one of those secret little mom tests that we give to see how well we are doing in our parenting!!)

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  • MSJ

    Well I did fly her First Class to Vegas and we had a beautiful room at the Encore and she got to use the $100 spa credit under the Amex Fine Hotels program. I had some brownie points coming :)

  • Frequent Traveller

    This isn’t about right or wrong. It is simply a matter of manners…

  • Frequent Traveller

    This isn’t about right or wrong. It is simply a matter of manners…

  • Frequent Traveller

    This isn’t about right or wrong. It is simply a matter of manners…

  • mike

    Also, when you use it, you save every other traveler that is waiting 40-60 seconds of time. Not a lot, but it can matter. Same goes for when I “opt-out”, I am not using the 40 second millimeter machine, so I am actually SAVING time for other people, there is no period of time without someone in the machine, so me going around for the 3 minute pat down is just one less person in that queue, which is the bottleneck the TSA has.

    It’s weird they don’t give pre check each time. About to get the Global Entry myself. I recently did a different version of opting out in Bangkok, they had the millimeter machine there and I just said no and pointed at the machine, and they used the wand metal detector and let me through. The people bow at you all the time as well, far from TSA bs.

    As for being with your mom, getting coffee or something would make the situation better. On the way back collecting luggage. No big deal tho, all moms understand that.

  • Ben

    About a week ago, my woman, who is not TSA Pre, was on my itinerary and was allowed to go through the TSA Pre entrance with me at Dulles (IAD). I thought this was neat, as we bypassed an enormous line. It’s like they have a separate entry section for TSA Pre.

    When I flew out of Orlando later that week, she was diverted to another line.

  • TSA-pre rules!

    More importantly, will they have TSA-pre at new Delta terminal at JFK?

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  • Michael Mathews

    Well, I’m going to test this out when I take my mom and dad to Hawaii next month. If I get PreCheck at LAX or HNL, yes I will take it and let them stand together in line. I will actually wait with them until near the front so the time apart will be minimal and I’ll wait on the other side to help them get put back together before we go to the airline lounge.

    They know I am in PreCheck and don’t have a problem with my using the benefit if it is approved.

  • Justin Nelson

    I know this is an old thread, but FYI, on Sept 25 2013, I flew NRT-SFO-ONT. I was able to use PreCheck despite having just come off an international flight.

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