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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Kevin, who didn’t have the airport security experience he anticipated:

This is a story with a happy ending, but it easily could have gone the other way. I showed up to the Oakland airport about 45 minutes before a flight — a little late, but still confident since I have TSA PreCheck. I walk in looking at a very long line and think to myself “thank God I have PreCheck or I’d miss my flight.” But when I get up to security, the agent points out that I don’t have it on my ticket.

My heart sunk and I thought for sure I was going to miss my flight. I have flown previously using PreCheck, and remember specifically adding it to my Southwest profile. Fortunately, while I fumbled around to see if I could add it to my reservation, another security line opened and the traffic cleared almost completely. I made it through in time for my flight, but I might not have if that extra line had not opened.

The lesson in this is to look for the TSA PreCheck symbol on my boarding pass 24 hours before my flight, and even in my frequent flyer profile. I have no idea how my known traveler number disappeared from of my Southwest profile, but I’m sure it was just a harmless glitch. All in all, I got lucky.

You’ll generally have access to expedited security lanes once you enroll in TSA PreCheck, but not always. Don’t expect to use PreCheck if your known traveler number (KTN) isn’t added to your reservation or if the information you provide doesn’t match what’s in your trusted traveler profile. The TSA also cautions that being eligible doesn’t guarantee you’ll be selected for expedited screening every time, so the PreCheck designation might not show up on your boarding pass even if you do everything correctly. My guess is that this is what happened to Kevin, and not that his KTN mysteriously disappeared from his Rapid Rewards profile.

If you unexpectedly don’t get PreCheck, you still have options. Try contacting your airline (either by phone or at the ticketing counter), as they may be able to correct any errors and reissue your boarding pass with the PreCheck designation. If you attempt this in person, presenting your Global Entry card can help to verify personal information. This approach is more likely to work the further out you are from your scheduled boarding time — which is one reason I recommend checking in early — but it’s still worth a shot close to departure if you’re facing a long standard security line.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending Kevin a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.

Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Featured photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images

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