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One of the hot topics in airline travel these days is TSA PreCheck. I recently wrote about how Virgin America has joined the program and the fact that TSA PreCheck recently expanded to certain international itineraries as well.
Personally I love the program since it can be a huge time saver at the airport, letting you speed through security without having to take off your belt or shoes, remove liquids or laptops from your bag, and access expedited lines. Granted, that comes with its own set of etiquette questions when you’re traveling with someone who does not qualify for PreCheck, but overall, I’ve had great experiences with it.
However, one downside is that when you check-in for a flight online, or even if you get your boarding pass at the airport, it’s hard to know if the airline’s system has you down correctly for PreCheck eligibility since several of the participating airlines did not put any sort of indication on boarding passes – neither mobile nor paper – to let you know.
Delta started a trend in April when it announced it would be adding a TSA PreCheck indicator both to kiosk-printed boarding passes as well as mobile boarding passes, and now it looks like other airlines are following suit, starting with American. This weekend, I was updating some of my iPhone Apps with new updates when I noticed that the American Airlines app had a new update which now will display if you’re TSA PreCheck eligible when you check-in and receive your boarding pass on your phone.
For comparison, here are the other five airlines that participate in TSA PreCheck and how they measure up when it comes to notifying flyers of their eligibility for TSA PreCheck on their boarding passes.
Alaska Airlines: iPhone App, but not yet a feature
American: TSA PreCheck indicator in their iPhone App
Delta: TSA PreCheck indicator in their iPhone App
US Airways: No iPhone App, but indicator displayed when checking in on mobile site
United Airlines: TSA PreCheck support in their iPhone App
Virgin America: No iPhone App
The thing is – even if you are eligible for TSA PreCheck and have the indicator on your boarding pass, you don’t always qualify to go through the expedited security line. The TSA states on their site, while passengers with the PreCheck indicator have been pre-cleared to access the TSA PreCheck lane, no passenger is ever guaranteed expedited screening. The program preserves a measure of randomness for security screening purposes.
Personally, the first few times after I got Global Entry and had entered my Trusted Traveler number into my frequent flyer accounts, I did not qualify and it was pretty frustrating. But after that, I’ve gotten TSA PreCheck access 100% of the time. You might as well update your passenger profiles so that your Trusted Traveler number is in the system and these apps will at least let you know if you’re eligible for TSA PreCheck, but I wouldn’t cut your airport time too short just in case you’re one of the unlucky passengers who is randomly made to go through normal security.
Although my batting average with TSA PreCheck has been good, what have your experiences been like? What percentage of the time have you gotten to go in the TSA PreCheck line and how often have you been declined?