Reality Check: Traveling with Non-TSA PreCheck Travelers Sucks

Good morning everyone, I hope you had a great weekend. This past weekend, I was reminded how great TSA PreCheck is and how terribly regular airport security is. You are only as fast as your slowest non-TSA PreCheck traveler. For example, I sped through TSA PreCheck (barely slowing down to put my iPhone in my backpack, putting my backpack on the conveyor belt, putting my carry on bag on the conveyor belt, walking through the metal detector, and picking up my bags) then I waited 15-20 minutes on the other side of security for the non-TSA PreCheck travelers to go through security.  In that 15-20 minute window of time, I realized how much I take for granted having TSA PreCheck.  It is a total game changer for me, especially at SFO when I go through security twice, first to visit the SFO Centurion Lounge, and then again to get to my departure terminal.

Image source: https://www.politico.com/story/2016/05/tsa-airport-long-lines-223666

I was racking my brain to figure out which of my credit cards still have Global Entry / TSA PreCheck credit available.  And every time you mention paying for your non-TSA PreCheck traveler’s Global Entry / TSA PreCheck membership, they say that they do not travel very much.  My counterpoint: If you travel at least once with me over a 5 year period and you make me wait 15-20 minutes on the other side of security, you need TSA PreCheck.  Plus it’s free to me and you are doing me a bigger favor than I am doing you a favor.  #rantover  What do you think?  How do you travel with non-TSA PreCheck travelers?

63 thoughts on “Reality Check: Traveling with Non-TSA PreCheck Travelers Sucks

  1. Liz @ Yes/No Detroit

    Ha. I have TSA Pre-check and I travel like 5-7-ish times per year, including both personal and work trips. Definitely worth it, IMO. My parents do not have pre-check but tend to get it for free, so they were bummed on their last trip when their boarding passes didn’t say it … they travel about 1x per year so for them it would not be worth it, IMO.

    Reply
    1. Grant Post author

      What I have found is if you are traveling with non-TSA PreCheck travelers, if you book everyone on the same reservation, your TSA PreCheck status usually transfers to them for that reservation.

      Reply
      1. Dennis

        Wow. Never heard of it. I thought if both couple or family each need separate one. Totally a game changer especially when travelling during friday afternoon when everyone is leaving work then the airport gets crowded. lol.

        Reply
        1. Grant Post author

          I can’t guarantee it will work 100% of the time. Try it out a few times and see how often you get TSA PreCheck for everyone on the reservation.

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          1. askmrlee (@askmrlee)

            While we will never know the mysteries of the TSA pre-check, I was under the impression that they were ending pre-check for those who are not actually registered for pre-check, since what’s the point of getting it if they give it away for free.

            Prior to having Global Entry for every member of my family, everyone got pre-check on two of our trips and I presume that was because of my pre-check and we were all on the same PNR (reservation ID). Also, we probably fit the profile of a family (same last name, spouse/kids on reservation) making us presumably lower risk.

          2. Grant Post author

            You might be right. I don’t travel with non-TSA PreCheck travelers very often, so I am not sure if that is still the case.

          3. Spencer F

            It’s carried over from my wife’s and my precheck to our children under 12 (who don’t have it) every time so far

          4. Grant Post author

            Good to know, thank you Spencer. Do you know how old your children need to be before they need to get their own Global Entry / TSA PreCheck membership?

          5. Barry Graham

            @Spencer F, Children under 12 automatically get PreCheck. It has nothing to do with being on your reservation.

          6. Darah

            Grant, Just want to let you know that it has worked for me everytime but like you said, eveyone has to be on the reservation with the person who has Pre-Check.

      2. Larry Lee

        That has been my experience also. I recently went thru and saw a young mother with three kids. She said TSA allows up to five!

        Reply
    2. Charlie M.

      While I have been out of the “work flying travel game” about 5 years, I almost always had TSA precheck (likely due to frequent flyer status on United).
      When I traveled with my wife and kids (kids over 12), we all usually had TSA precheck tickets. Sorta made getting in a nonevent……a slight perk of missing things at home or with kids, made security a bit easier.
      Things may be different now, so, my past experience.
      Oh, and I was field service, the company would not approve an expense sheet for other levels of precheck/global check.
      Most of my travel was in the “lower 48 of the US”.
      Pre 9/11, I remember doing EWR to ATL as a day job, walking through with a pocketknife, Leatherman, tool bag with “weapons” and a laptop bag. Get to terminal, get ticket, waltz through security with all carryon, get on plane.
      Same for trip home.
      Post 9/11, it was a long day since I had to check tools and wait at each end.

      Reply
    3. steven reilly

      My spouse and I are regularly separated at TSA-Pre. It alternates from trip to trip as to which of us receives it and which of us doesn’t.

      Reply
  2. Kenny

    Is precheck really always open and available every time you travel? Seems like about a quarter of the time, it is not for us and we wind up with shoes-stay-on passes but have to go through the line with everyone else. Although many of those times it is at the security checkpoint after clearing customs and immigration were there is no precheck, and you probably don’t have to deal with that since you are more likely to be able to fly home from an international flight and go.

    Reply
    1. Grant Post author

      Depends on the airport, the terminal, and time of day. SFO is a pretty busy airport, so I have always had TSA PreCheck lines open at every terminal. I believe in PHX, I had to wait until 6am for the TSA PreCheck line to open. Definitely a pain in the butt when you expect TSA PreCheck line to be open/available and it is not.

      Reply
      1. askmrlee (@askmrlee)

        My experience at SFO is that at Terminal A/G Pre-check operates until about 9:30p-10p, after that you’re only going to get “priority” meaning the metal detector, not body scanner. At SJC Pre is available at “peak periods” which is a nice way of saying they may have irregular hours. Once arrived “too early” before 5am and it wan’t operating yet. I’ve also arrived at 9:30a on a weeklday and was told that it “stopped operating”. I’m presuming that was just after “the AM peak” and people were on a break after 4 hours. (5a-9a).

        Reply
        1. Grant Post author

          Yikes, that makes it tricky to know when to show up at the airport for flights out of SJC. I wish all the TSA PreCheck lines would operate the same hours as regular security.

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      2. Linn Hammergren

        And watch out for Miami, especially terminal D — the pre-check line rarely exists, so pre-check people have to use the usual line, but do get to keep their shoes on. Another reason to avoid Miami, pre-check or not

        Reply
  3. Lee Huffman

    If I had to wait in one of those lines, I would gladly pay $17 to skip the line. $20 handshake anyone? When I have friends who travel with me, but don’t have GE or TSAPC, they know to meet me at the lounge. I’ll come out and let them in once they arrive. In the meantime, I’m enjoying free drinks and snacks, surfing the web, and relaxing in a comfy seat.

    Reply
  4. Erick

    You know what’s worse? Traveling with someone who doesn’t have global entry. My partner and I flew from MAD to JFK in July. I silently suffered through the overly crowded REGULAR customs line while the global entry line was nearly empty.

    Reply
    1. Grant Post author

      Yikes, I’ve done that too. It sucks when you have to wait in a slow, long line and you know that the Global Entry line is so close and super fast.

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    2. Liz

      Hang in there…I’ll get to Global Entry. In 1972 I was driving across the US/Canadian border back into the US. I had three tiny, skinny joints. They found them. I had to wait in jail for the banks to open in the AM and when I stood in front of the judge to pay my fine he said this, “Young lady, possession in the State is a misdemeanor and your fine is $150. The federal crime is transporting illegal material across an international border. The fine for that is the Blue Book value of your car with a minimum of $250. The border agent has set your fine at $50. I have never seen that happen before! Congratulations!” As well, at court there were only two joints. I figured someone enjoyed the third, but it was on the seat of my car when they brought me to get it out of impound. So, now to Global Entry…I believed that both State and Federal incidents would be removed from my record after a period of time, so other than a good story I just forgot about them. Cut to a few years ago when I applied for Global Entry. I was turned down because of that federal violation in 1972. I freaking kid you not. I have TSA PreCheck, but cannot get GE. I travel for work more than half of the time…two weeks out, one week home, thankfully only occasionally internationally. Seriously, can’t get GE.

      Reply
      1. Alex Ashton

        Duh! You committed a CRIME. Now you want to be “trusted.” Don’t get me wrong, I have been an advocate of MJ legalization since before 1972, but in 1972 it WASN’T legal, and you chose to break the law. Who knows what law you might choose to break today because you don’t happen to like it?

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      2. Sheena

        Another lesson I learned (during spring break season) is that when you change your name, you lose everything. After I got married and changed my last name I had to go through the whole Global Entry interview process again (I’m not sure if this is the case when you renew it as well?). Even being a Diamond with Delta didn’t get me Pre-Check until after I got my Global Entry back.

        Reply
          1. Sheena

            Yep… I forget exactly what the fee was, but I had to pay. I actually had a SENTRI card in the past, but I don’t think that had anything to do with the fees.

          2. Barry Graham

            Their web site says that in your case you should visit an enrollment center without an appointment. Who told you you had to make an appointment and pay again?

          3. Sheena

            It’s been a couple of years so I don’t remember why I paid. I do remember having to wait a few months to get an appointment. Maybe I didn’t really need to and they just got a donation from me. I’m not sure how it works now, but when I got my SENTRI, you had to go through CBP at the border (I got mine at Otay Mesa). I got my Global Entry in Kentucky. I’m not sure if I had to pay because I went from SENTRI to Global Entry, but I really don’t see the difference. I do remember when I changed the name on my passport, my SENTRI was voided and my trusted traveler number changed.

  5. Andy

    I too thought that as of Spring 2018 only PreCheckers were allowed entry to PreCheck lanes…yet last month I flew out of Palm Springs on a United flight to SFO and the three ladies in front of me (who coincidentally I knew professionally) did not have the official TSA PreCheck membership – nor Global Entry. They were not even United elite MP members – yet all three had the TSAPreCheck logo on their boarding pass. So I have to ask – how does this happen? Then they end up not knowing what to do and start removing everything from their bags.

    What irks me the most is that some airports (ONT, SAN) have “limited TSAPreCheck” lanes during the day. They give you a big green card you are supposed to wave. They make you take your laptop out and liquids but shoes stay on. WTF ?

    Reply
    1. Grant Post author

      I don’t know what is worse. Have people who don’t know what to do in the PreCheck line ahead of you or have to hold the green PreCheck card in the normal security line. Both options are bad.

      Reply
  6. Adrian Pater

    I recently encountered and was told by TSA agent that even though I have Global Entry that does not automatically make me pre check.

    Reply
    1. Michael LaFemina

      Happened to me also at Alaska @ LAX. I talked to a TSA supervisor and he told me that up to 15% of the TSA precheck members can be selected for regular screening as a check to the system. He said that this is computer generated and random and that it can happen at any time. Also said that it may happen only once or even every time you fly though that is very rare.

      Reply
      1. Grant Post author

        I’ve definitely been randomly selected for a hand swab. No big deal if there is a TSA agent there to do the test. The worst is when you have to wait 5-10 minutes for a TSA agent to come over to you to do the test.

        Reply
  7. Ian

    I still remember the one and only time I flew with my boss. He got in the regular line 10 minutes before I entered PreCheck. I still beat him through and had to wait for 5.

    Reply
    1. Grant Post author

      I think my manager has TSA PreCheck and the CEO has an AMEX Plat, so they are travel savvy. I’m sure your boss felt embarrassed that he made you wait on the other side of security.

      Reply
  8. gregory Smith

    my wife and I both have global entry which comes with TSA precheck. its money well spent since we travel outside the US 2-3 times per year and 6-10 times per year in the US. It really is the way to go

    Reply
  9. Willie

    Grant, you are rude. If you travel with someone who is not TSA Pre-check, go through security with that person. My goodness, you’re traveling together. I wouldn’t want to travel with you.

    Reply
    1. Grant Post author

      I would feel bad about slowing down the regular TSA line for those people behind me. I try to avoid regular TSA lines like the plague.

      Reply
  10. Sheena

    I just got back from vacation in Brazil with my non TSA PreCheck/non Global Entry husband (really he isn’t that bad of a person). This was a fishing trip and we usually always have our reel bag as a carryon, which 50% of the time gets an extra look from TSA. I take the carryons through PreCheck and wait for him on the other side. Even after they open up the bag, look at all of the reels and make small talk about River Monsters and Jeremy Wade, I still end up waiting 10-15 minutes for him to get through the regular line.
    On are way home we spent over 45 minutes in the regular customs line. Last time I almost had a feeling of guilt when I ditched him for Global Entry. This time the airline had lost all of our bags, so we didn’t have to worry about collecting them on the other side, so I decided to go in the common folk line with him. We almost missed our next connection.
    While I don’t think I’ll waste one of my Delta Choice Benefits on his Global Entry, I’ve already started looking at upgrading a few credit cards to get the Global Entry certificate.

    Reply
  11. Jim Neubauer

    Yeah, I now have Global Entry with the Pre-check. I was coming back from MSY last week and the body scanner in precheck was off. TSA yells across to the regular line officers and sent me over there for the body scan. Then comes all the pat downs and gun powder tests. I like, I’m Pre and just needed a body scan.The TSA officer keeps telling me it’s normal procedure. I finally had to shut up and comply before being delayed until my flight left without me on it.

    Reply
  12. Alex Ashton

    I am Pre-Check myself, but my biggest pet peeve is traveling with whiny, entitled a-holes who pitch a fit every time they are faced with being treated like an “ordinary person.” This particular “complaint” doesn’t make the Top 100 of the many REAL problems with modern air travel.

    Reply
  13. Alex

    Depending on who you were travelling with, politeness would actually have required you to stay with your party. At least that’s what I do when travelling with friends and family.
    Since Pre-Check comes with an extra background check, it should not automatically transfer to all passengers on the same PNR.

    Reply
    1. Grant Post author

      Yes, you are right, that would have been the more polite thing to do. I realize that I am not the most polite person in the world.

      Reply
  14. Rob

    TRUE STORY: I tell the knucklehead we can meet at the Priority Pass lounge or at the gate at boarding time. Then I go thru TSA pre check and then to the Priority Pass lounge and eat, drink and read the paper. Chances are he forgot the Priority Pass card so I get free time. Why am I so rude? Because he has the exact same Chase Sapphire Reserve card and they will pay for the application. Over many months I suggested he apply for Global Entry. The reason he does’t apply is it requires some effort, and this individual is lazy. Why should I suffer for an other’s laziness? To top it off, he then complains he is hungry but doesn’t want to buy anything at the airport because he is a tightwad as well.

    Reply
  15. Michael LaFemina

    Funny story. A few years ago I jumped on global entry as soon as it was offered. I definitely saw the benefits to it. My wife thought it was a waste of money because she was always getting TSA pre check for free. Did not understand why I wanted to spend a $100. Then one day at Boston Logan I got my TSA pre check and she did not. I, not being the nice husband that I should have been, went through the TSA pre check line immediately and she waited 30 minutes. She was livid with me. I did not hear the end of it how I was mean and cruel and nasty and that I should have gone and waited with her. I just smiled. Replied, oh well. The next day she had me apply for global entry for her. Case closed.

    Reply
    1. Grant Post author

      I’m glad you turned a bad situation into a good situation. Travelling is much easier when you both have Global Entry / TSA PreCheck :)

      Reply
    1. Grant Post author

      I have CLEAR too (for free) and it is like FastTrack for TSA, takes you right to the front of the line, which comes in handy occasionally :)

      Reply
  16. Mr Realist

    What ticks me off is the number of travelers that haven’t been through Pre-Check enrollment, aren’t frequent travelers, and get Pre-Check on their boarding card anyway. It happens frequently with folks I travel with. Most of them are kettles who have no idea how Pre-Check works and totally bog down the actual security pre-clearance for which I’ve twice had to spend my time waiting for an appointment, going through fingerprinting, new photos, and interviews. Tell me, where’s the aviation security advantage in random selection for Pre-Check access? Is TSA just trying to sell more Pre-Check enrollment by giving random people a taste of expedited security?

    Reply
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