Thoughts on the TSA Pre-Check Program & Steps to Ensure you Recieve Pre-Check Access


Starting last October, the Toilet Safety Administration Transportation "Security" Administration rolled out the Pre-Check program, which allows members of the various Trusted Traveler Programs (NEXUS, Global Entry, & SENTRI), as well as certain frequent fliers on Alaska, American, Delta, United & US Airways to enroll in the Pre-Check program. If selected for Pre-Check access at the checkpoint, fliers are able to skip the body scanners or groping, and utlize the walk-through metal detector. Additionally, TSA permits you to leave your laptop and liquids in your carry-on bag, and keep your shoes on. Basically what most countries let you do as a normal passenger.

I have been able to use Pre-Check about five times since January, and some of my experiences with the program can be found here and here. I was also able to use it this morning in Portland, Oregon, allowing me to clear the security theater checkpoint in 30 seconds!

As many of you know, I am a strong opponent of the TSA, as I find that the majority of their "tactics" are useless, and just a waste of our tax dollars. The TSA is an organization that closes the barn door after the horse has escaped, rather than follow other agencies around the world that are truly risk-based, which is believed to be a better way for security organizations to stop potential terrorists. And with the number of TSA employees arrested for such crimes as allowing drug smugglers to go around the body scanners, I find it hard to believe that they could actually stop a terrorist from transiting a checkpoint. After all, if somebody can pay off a TSA clerk to carry drugs through the checkpoint, what's to stop them paying to carry explosives through?

Now with Pre-Check, I appreciate the thought the TSA has put into the program, although I think it still has a ways to go. Although there are currently twenty Pre-Check enabled airports, that number is quite small when you compare it to the number of airports in the United States. I am hoping that TSA drastically increases the number of airports by the end of the year. Such places as Denver, San Francisco, and Washington-Dulles would be great candidates, and frankly, I'm surprised that they weren't first on the list. Oh, well. Below is a list of airports currently running Pre-Check, and here is a link to a detailed chart of Pre-Check locations.


If you are a Global Entry, NEXUS, or SENTRI member, and are having issues with Pre-Check, you're not alone. I recently spoke to the AA Executive Platinum Desk, and the topic of Pre-Check came up during our conversation. The agent went on to mention that they had been getting a lot of phone calls from annoyed AA elite members, who used to have a 100% success rate with Pre-Check, and are now being sent to the regular line each time they fly. I mentioned that I had seen the same issue, after not clearing on a recent round-trip to Dallas. Unbeknownst to me, TSA sent a letter to American, informing them of the need for the names of passengers to match what is on file with CBP or CBSA though NEXUS.

For example, if your airline account has Bob Jones, but your GOES (the Global Online Enrollment System, which you use to sign up for a Truster Traveler Program) account has Bob James Jones, then the TSA may not be associating your information properly, when it "decides" who can and can not have access. One would think that this would not be a problem as long as the PASS ID # was in the record. Then again, this is the TSA we are dealing with.

If you are unsure of where to find your PASS ID #, there are two places you could find it. Either on the back of your SENTRI, NEXUS, or Global Entry Card, or in your GOES account. The picture below is what the back the program cards look like, and shows where to find the PASS ID #.

global_entry_example image courtesy; TSA

As another example, I failed to get Pre-Check on my last trip to Dallas, likely due to the fact that my middle name was not submitted in my Secure Flight Data. The agent at American suggested I go ahead and update my AAdvantage account, and she would make sure my middle name was submitted on the flights I flew this past Wednesday (JFK-SFO-PDX). This seemed to help, as I cleared Pre-Check both at JFK on Wednesday, and then also this morning at PDX, on an Alaska Airlines ticket.

Of course, the TSA maintains that selection for Pre-Check is "random", so there are no guarantees that this will work. However, I can tell you that others have reported success by ensuring that the name on their reservation matches 100% to their GOES account.

In the mean time, if you have any experiences with Pre-Check, or any questions about the program, feel free to comment below.


Rocky August 3, 2012 at 10:23 pm

So far I'm 100% at Precheck Airports. I have Global entry and name matches. GOES has my prefix (the 3rd) most airlines do not. However it still has been working on all flights when flying Delta out of LAX, LAS, AA out of LAX, and Alaska from SEA. However I haven't' tried all airport on all airlines

This is helpful. I have a feeling I don't match perfectly. I've had a zero percent success rate lately. Will check.

Does pre check work at US airports when on international itineraries?

@Tom: Officially, no. However, there are several reports on FT of AA elites getting Pre-Check when they are on an international itinerary. Some of the ones I remember seemed to have partner flights, such as LAX-JFK on Thursday night, and JFK-HKG on CX on Friday.

I'm not exactly sure what TSA thinks will happen if they allow it for international flights, as it's not like there is special security screening for international flights.

For your situation, there have also been several reports of pax failing Pre-Check on tickets issued through other agencies such as Amex, etc.

UA-NYC August 4, 2012 at 09:57 am

I'm sure you know that SFO, IAD, and DEN aren't on the initial list for one key reason - they're COdbaUA-dominant airports! And with their computer systems a mess and continual integration issues, no wonder TSA went to other airports first.

Brad August 4, 2012 at 11:05 am

Daniel, I'm now 2/2 on fully domestic itineraries on United at PreCheck airports. I got 'three beeps' several other times, but at places like IAD and ORD before T1 PreCheck. My names match on both my GOES account and Secure flight info.

I'm not TSA fan, and agree with much of what you said, but I haven't experienced airport security internationally where you don't have to remove your laptop from your bag. I've had comparatively easy security for domestic flights in Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, and Japan, and in each of those the laptop had to come out, although shoes and belt stayed on. It was much more pleasant than the typical TSA mess, but not as simple or fast as PreCheck.

Here is a brief discussion of my experience in Sydney: Screening in Australia

Bill Fisher August 5, 2012 at 06:13 pm

In the past eighteen months only 2 million passengers have used PreCheck, some of them several times. By comparison there are over 700 million passengers per year or 1.05 billion people in that time.

The chances of you being able to use this is 0.19% or less than 2 in 1,000 trips and then only if you are a Delta, United, American or US Airways frequent flier. If you fly on Southwest or Jet Blue forget it.

If they increase this to 100 times its current size, that would still be less than 200 in 100,000 or 1 in every 500 passengers. That is not going to speed up the lines for anyone other than the very few elites.

Why would the average traveler be happy to hear about a biased program that favors those with money and treats them as being more equal than everyone else?

Since even Precheck members only get to actually use the service once in 5 or 10 trips, often after paying $100 to enroll, why would they sign up for a service that is arbitrary and seldom useful?

This is a corrupt program that rewards those spending lots of money with one of these four airlines with reduced security abuse and excludes millions of law abiding and trustworthy citizens simply because they don't spend enough with the TSA selected carriers.

This is unfair and an insult to the basic tenets of equality. Would people be happy if TSA offered this only to millionaires, whites, men or college graduates? If not then they should oppose this along with the exemptions for other ‘special” groups. As the Ft Hood tragedy demonstrated, terrorists can even be high ranking Army psychiatrists.

If these security measures aren't applied to everyone equally, then they simply won't work and should be stopped.

There should be a class action suit brought against the airlines and TSA for this assault on the average traveler.

Andrew August 6, 2012 at 03:45 am

Bill Fisher: meet America, a capitalist country where money does in fact buy power. If you can't handle that en maybe Cuba, Venezuela or North Korea would be a better fit.

BK August 6, 2012 at 09:03 am

My experience: Twice at MSP (1 for 2) & once at ORD (1 for 1). I like the option, but the one time I was not "selected", it took me longer because I was not ready. So, I had to reset my expectations.

Several times I have had tickets on Delta booked by my corporate travel agent wipe out my known traveler number from my Delta profile and then not get PreCheck. Now I make sure to add it back in and fortunately did not happen on the most recent ticket.

dmel August 15, 2012 at 05:02 pm

My AAdvantage account matches my Global Entry info (full middle name), but my corp travel agent books using just middle initial. The AAdv desk fixed my upcoming flights for me. Thanks!

Glad that worked for you! Seems as though many people are having problems when booking tix through Corp. Travel Agencies. Best of luck getting "LLL" for your upcoming flights!

Brad August 16, 2012 at 12:46 pm

Just as another data point, I've been 100% with precheck at ORD and MSP on United on corporate booked travel. Small sample size, but still FYI.

Erica November 6, 2012 at 04:15 pm

Just to be clear, TSA Pre-Check will not admit you to their line if you are not ALSO on an approved carrier. I have a GOES member, but my membership card means nothing to TSA Pre-Check if I'm not flying with an approved carrier.

I wish someone would match up the explanation for why the GOES program even matters? It seems much more rigorous than the Pre-Check background check anyway, so what should it matter if I am on American, United or whatever as long as I have my issued-ID card?

@Erica: From what I understand, the reason you or I can't use Pre-Check (with GE or NEXUS) when flying on JetBlue, Frontier, etc, seems to be related to the lack of elite fliers on either carrier. When AA & DL first launched Pre-Check, they were billing it as a program specifically for frequent fliers. Although Frontier does have their Ascent/Summit members, TSA may think that their population of elites to non-elites is not as great as AA/AS/DL/UA/US to warrant including them in the program for the current year.

That being said, I would expect to see more information about new Pre-Check airlines and airports in 2013.

Jack C November 25, 2012 at 02:10 pm

I recently signed up for Pre-Check and am 4/4 on domestic flights. Two of the comments to this post kept me thinking on the topic I had clear thoughts on before. (Thank you for reminding me as I should not have stopped thinking about this.)

Before getting pre-check, I was getting a freedom-oscapy every time I went through the checkpoint. I simply could never bring myself to willingly step into the porn photo booth. I was always directed to the scanner as the only people who were allowed through the metal detector were children traveling with family and TSA employees. (Apparently those groups can't be law breakers - evidence to the contrary.)

That said, I agree with the concept called "security theatre" as discussed in multiple articles. Why? When I "opt out" of the scanner, I am directed to wait for a screener to [enhanced] pat me down. (The same procedure the police use when arresting a suspected criminal.) Here's the interesting part: when the screener shows up to lead me to the pat down area, I am directed around the metal detector. I won't give a description of what area of the body could be used to bring in metal that isn't searched in the pat down. (And for the record, I have never tested this.) All of this without discussing any of the stories of TSA employees arrested or the fact that ground crews are never screened in any fashion ("random screening" that is supposedly done not withstanding).

When I registered for pre-check I was asked to produce certain information and documentation. There were no questions new to me with regards to other government registration I had to do for travel. I can only guess as to what information the government has access to (criminal, financial, Internet usage, etc.) and how they use that information in determining my eligibility.

About two of the posts above. Bill: keep in mind that the procedure for the pre-check line is the screening methodology we had pre 9/11. Go back far enough and you'll read about the "unconstitutional requirement" to surrender up items that wouldn't go through that new fangled metal detector or to answer the "have your bags been in your possession the entire time" questions. I believe your case should be to look at what the government has the right to do on the grounds of airport property. Court challenges have failed when the courts have been asked to curtail what rules the TSA comes up with. Change will happen when Congress cuts back TSA funding. (This has been gaining popularity recently.)

Andrew: you couldn't name a government or system of government, now or in the past, whose rulers and those with wealth were not tied together (assuming they aren't already the same group of people) in some fashion. (Cuba, Venezuela, and N Korea are not exceptions so perhaps you were going for irony and not something else.) But to say that wealth buys privilege and there's nothing more to say or be done says to me you either have wealth or you are expecting it soon. I believe your argument should be more along the lines of "don't like what they do at airport security - then don't go through airport security".

People aren't going to leave the country. Not rich people because their taxes are too high and not the rest of us because of the assault on our civil liberties. Both groups will vote and act in [what they think is] their own interest. Meanwhile I'll go through pre-check as often as they'll let me because I can. When they don't, I'll get a pat down because I can opt out of the government taking a picture of me through my clothes. Maybe enough of us opting out will change things. But I'm just a citizen.

Paul April 4, 2013 at 05:45 pm

I have learned two things that are helpful. If you change your seat during check-in, you will not get pre-check. If you change your flight during checkin - in other words opt for a later flight that day, you will not get pre-check. And currently, Alaska Airlines IT group is having troubles resulting in anyone flying on Horizon Air not getting pre-check.

denise April 8, 2013 at 01:50 pm

Hi. We're just new to using this. The first time, we got an email with our boarding pass telling us we were clear and where to go, etc. This next flight, nothing. Dowe always just go to the precheck terminal site and see if we're clear? Are they supposed to send an email?

TSA site is worthless, and United basically told me to ask TSA.

Any clarification would be a help! Thanks.

MARY May 31, 2013 at 10:07 am

Quick question - my GOES account has my first name, middle name, maternal name and last name but my card just shows first, middle and last name (no maternal name). After getting my trusted traveler number, I was batting zero on precheck until I included all these names in my secure flight data (first name now shows my first and middle name, middle name is maiden name and last name is last name) and then was batting 100% until back to zero.

Any idea of a change that took place? Thanks

@Mary: Do you possibly fly on Delta? There were several reports of Delta's website removing stored Trusted Traveler information, which could explain your recent failures.