The TSA is quietly spreading the word—though not for the first time—that it plans to cut back on the number of travelers allowed in the PreCheck lane who are not officially enrolled in the program.
CNBC, for example, yesterday quoted an email from Transportation Security Administration spokesman Mike England stating that “starting early February 2017, TSA will significantly reduce access to [TSA PreCheck] expedited screening for non-enrolled travelers."
"This is part of the natural progression of the [TSA PreCheck] program," the email said. "In the future, we intend to only have enrolled or pre-vetted passengers, or those screened by K9s, in the expedited screening lanes."
United Airlines also has advised its frequent travelers of the coming change in the program.
In an effort to keep airport security lines moving, many travelers, especially frequent travelers known to their airline, often have been “upgraded” to the fast lane even though they are not officially enrolled in the TSA program.
It’s not the first time the TSA has nibbled away at the option—preferring, of course, that travelers pay the $85 fee to officially join PreCheck or Global Entry, which also offers expedited customs and immigration for international travelers. And it is perhaps understandable that the agency does not want to advertise its policy of letting people into the line for free. So updates and information are always a little murky.
TMR has covered the story of the crackdown on PreCheck since 2014.
In September, 2015, David Castelveter, Deputy Assistant Administrator of TSA’s Office of Strategic Communications & Public Affairs, told TMR that TSA was rolling out a new program using canines to screen some travelers and allow them into the PreCheck lines. He said TSA agents would be randomly choosing passengers from among those who have made their reservations in advance, and whose names have been vetted through the TSA’s Secure Flight pre-screening process before they arrive at the airport.
He declined to provide more detail on how exactly passengers would be chosen or screened for the new program, citing security concerns, but emphasized that travelers would “get it only from time to time, only on a random basis, and only if there are canines at the airport.”
Given the current political environment, however, the crackdown on TSA line jumping may be for real this time.