Here are a few of my favorite tips for getting through the TSA line a little quicker. You don’t even have to be enrolled in Pre-Check!
Gordon Moore is confused — and angry.
The Transportation Security Administration can’t stop talking about its new Pre-Check program, which offers air travelers preferred screening status if they submit to a background check.
How badly does the TSA want you to use its full-body scanners? Badly enough to bend a few facts, say passengers like Melissa Paul.
The Transportation Security Administration’s vaunted new PreCheck system, which offers selected air travelers access to expedited security screening, is hurtling toward its first big test: a crowd of spring break passengers, quickly followed by a crush of inexperienced summer vacationers.
Although the agency assigned to protect U.S. transportation systems says that it’s ready, some travelers remain unconvinced. They point to problems with the existing PreCheck procedures and their own often inconsistent experiences with them.
Here’s how PreCheck is supposed to work: Passengers pay an $85 enrollment fee and submit to a background check and interview. In exchange, they may receive a pre-9/11 type of screening that allows them to keep on their shoes, belts and light outerwear, leave their laptops in their cases and not remove clear zip-top bags of liquids and gels from their carry-on luggage.
If airport security is so good, why do passengers feel so bad?
That’s a valid question, considering how the Transportation Security Administration seems to be spinning its performance lately. The agency wants you to believe the dark days of body scans and pat-downs, of liquids, gels and shoes obediently placed on the conveyor belt, are well on their way out, thanks to its vaunted new Pre-check system. And remember, there have been no successful terrorist attacks since the agency’s creation, it would hasten to add.
So why aren’t we buying it? Why are lawmakers such as Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., threatening to introduce legislation that would force TSA agents to mind their manners?
You can avoid the TSA’s full-body scanners without causing a major incident. Here’s how.
Can we look past this ridiculous debate about cellphones on planes? Can we ignore, for a moment, the breathless opinion polls, the pompous declarations by airlines that they’d never allow wireless chatter in their cabins, and the heated discussions you’ve read in your favorite travel blog?
Mobile phones on commercial flights, already on their way to becoming a reality in the rest of the civilized world, will eventually come to the United States. It matters not that 59% of Americans in a recent Quinnipiac University poll declared they’re against it. Since when is the interior of an aircraft — where good etiquette remains in short supply — a yak-free zone like a library or church?
The TSA offered Sue Speck an early Christmas present when she checked in for a recent flight from Columbus to Los Angeles: a coveted Precheck designation on her boarding pass, which allowed her to avoid removing her shoes, taking out her laptop and most important, get around the agency’s dreaded full-body scanners when she was screened.
“It was easy,” says Speck, a sales administrative assistant who lives in Columbus. “There was no line.”
So easy that she found herself wishing for Precheck privileges on her next flight, even though she didn’t belong to the exclusive program.
What do you do if something goes wrong with your TSA screening? Here are a few helpful tips about the agency. Timing is everything when you’ve got a problem with your screening.
What annoys you the most about air travel?
Is it the chaos that awaits when you pull up to the curb at the airport terminal this time of year? How about the indignity of being screened by the TSA? Or maybe just knowing that you’re paying more but getting so much less?
Now take a deep breath and say it with me: “Thank you.”
As we approach Thanksgiving, I, for one, am feeling grateful.
So is Mary Jo Baas, a consultant from Milwaukee. She sees the upside in the deep cuts in services and amenities, particularly in economy class.
When the Transportation Security Administration’s Pre-Check formally launches sometime this fall, its trusted-traveler program will already have the enthusiastic endorsement of frequent travelers — and an equally enthusiastic denouncement from privacy advocates.
Pre-Check offers an appealing shortcut past the often long airport security lines. After you pay an enrollment fee and submit to a background check and interview, the TSA promises to treat you like a VIP. You’ll be sent to a preferred line, where you can leave your shoes, light outerwear and belt on, leave your laptop in its case and keep your bag of liquids and gels in your carry-on.
“I can’t say enough about how much I love it,” says Ralph Velasco, a photographer based in Corona del Mar, Calif. “It’s saved me many, many hours. I’d highly recommend it.”
How do Velasco and others know about the benefits of Pre-Check?
Because the agency assigned to protect U.S. transportation systems has slowly rolled out the program in 40 airports since 2011.
Travelers could opt in to Pre-Check through their frequent-flier program or through another government trusted-traveler initiative, such as Global Entry, a similar program that allows travelers to cut the customs line when they return to the United States from overseas.
Let’s give the Transportation Security Administration one last chance.
After the release of a Government Accountability Office report that revealed widespread TSA employee misconduct, including screeners involved in theft and drug smuggling, public sentiment is squarely on the side of a top-to-bottom overhaul that could privatize or dismantle the agency assigned to protect America’s transportation systems.
But today, just a few days after the 9/11 anniversary, is not the time to talk about the end of the TSA. This is the moment to take account of the failings of one of America’s least-loved agencies, and to say: Our patience has its limits; it’s almost up.
Roberta Ling is a 73-year-old woman from Austin, Texas. Statistically, she’s likelier to be the next Miss America than a terrorist. But that doesn’t stop the TSA from harassing her whenever she flies.
Ling expects it. She has an artificial breast prosthesis, and is forced to make a difficult choice between a full-body scan and an uncomfortable pat-down when she’s screened. (Disclosure: I am opposed to the TSA’s current screening methods, and believe the choice between a scan and pat-down violates our Fourth Amendment rights.)
What Ling doesn’t expect is the hard sell on the scanner, which has sounded strangely similar lately.
Like most Americans, Jim Davies believes the Transportation Security Administration might benefit from a top-to-bottom reform.
And like most Americans, he wasn’t surprised when a Government Accountability Office study revealed widespread employee misconduct, including screeners involved in theft and drug smuggling activities, as well as circumventing mandatory screening procedures for passengers and baggage.
All of which made his recent experience in Philadelphia so noteworthy. As he waited in line to have his ID checked, he saw three elderly men approach the checkpoint.
“One of the gentlemen had clearly not been on a commercial flight in some time,” he says. “He presented his Medicare card and then his library card as his ID.”