U.S. lawmakers are moving on new rules that would exclude many passengers from using TSA PreCheck lines. For those already enrolled in the program, that could be a welcome change. For those more infrequent travelers, wait times will likely increase.
The House of Representatives passed the “Pre-check is Pre-check Act” (SIC) on Wednesday. With senate approval, the bill could become law this fall, effectively kicking everyone who hasn’t undergone a background check process out of PreCheck lines.
Airlines and airports will occassionaly funnel passengers through PreCheck lines at random to modulate security throughput during peak periods. This happens most often at busy airports, but sometimes passengers are given PreCheck passage at small, quiet airports. Before I was a Global Entry participant, I was once funneled through the PreCheck line at the cozy Akron-Canton Airport (CAK).
The Transportation Security Administration has struggled to keep up with enrollment goals for the program, which is part of a strategy to reduce security throughput times and improve efficiency at screening checkpoints. The TSA is supposed to enroll 25 million flyers in the program by 2019, but as of last year had only enrolled 5.6 million.
After completing background checks, TSA PreCheck travelers circumvent many of the more time-consuming security screening procedures, including full body scanners, shoe and jacket removal, liquids inspection and laptop inspection.
TSA PreCheck lines resemble airport security checkpoints in the happy-go-lucky 1990s. Passengers plop their bag on an x-ray belt, walk through a fairly weakly calibrated metal detector, and are on their way.
Rep. John Katko (R-New York) sponsored the bill. He writes that the practice of shifting regular passengers through PreCheck lines amounts to a security risk.
The practice “opens up our airports and airlines to vulnerabilities and risks the safety of the traveling public,” Katko said in a news release. “Rather than moving unscreened passengers through expedited screening lanes, this measure will ensure that TSA enhances its enrollment processes and develops alternative methods to manage checkpoint wait times.”
The bill is widely expected to pass senate approval, and President Donald Trump has not taken any position indicating a possible veto.
Assuming the bill passes, expect standard security lines to grow this fall. If you don’t have TSA PreCheck (or Global Entry, which includes expedited screening), it costs $85 for a five year membership.
Of course just about any travel card worth its metal — The American Express Platinum Card, Chase Sapphire, Citi ThankYou Premier, Capital One Venture to name a few — will cover the fees for either program.