Boomeresque:Definition
1. Adj.: Describing a person born between 1 Jan. 1946 and 31 Dec. 1964
2. Adj.: Description of a person, place or thing possessing Baby Boomer je ne sais quoi
3. See also, Boomer, Esq.: A Baby Boomer who is also a licensed attorney (See, e.g., About).

TSA PreCheck — Yes, Please

by Suzanne Fluhr on May 25, 2014 · 107 comments

Updated 8/25/15 and February 6, 2016

Like others annoyed by familiar with air travel in the United States since 2001, you know you will go through airport security screening by the United States TSA (Transportation Security Administration). Your flight day check list goes something like this:

  • Make sure you bring a government issued photo I.D.
  • Wear socks with no holes
  • Wear slip on shoes (I hate you Shoe Bomber)
  • Don’t wear pants (trousers for Brits) that require a belt to hold them up
  • Try to remember what 3-1-1 means:  (Oh yeah, I remember: make a mess pouring shampoo into a 3.5 ounce bottle; decide toothpaste and deodorant are more important than hair mousse; remember you used your last quart size storage bag to freeze leftovers—defrost them, empty bag, rinse it out, try to use your hairdryer to dry the bag without melting it).
  • Pack the brief case you bought specifically so you can swiftly remove your computer to put in its own plastic bin (Addendum July 9, 2014: Make sure your electronic devices are charged enough that you can turn them on in case a TSA agent requests that you do so.)
  • Wear an easily removed jacket or sweater and be OK with everyone else in the security line seeing what you dont have have on under it
  • Make your peace with going through a scanner (that may, or may not, cause cancer) that makes you appear naked to someone viewing your image in another room

As you approach the security line, you will be slightly ashamed for praying you don’t get stuck behind any of the following:

  • Families with 2 baby strollers, two squirming toddlers and diaper bags bulging with liquids,
  • Someone who is staring at the prohibited items list as though they are seeing it for the first time and who is moving their lips while reading it,
  • The Ding-a-ling who forgot he had a loaded Glock 33 semi-automatic pistol in his carry on suitcase.

In the last four and a half months, we (Mr. Excitement and I) have taken 16 flights, six of which originated at an airport in the United States. For our last five flights, my boarding pass said “TSA PRECHK”. The first time I saw this, I was positive I was being singled out for a strip search and special interrogation (hopefully, but not necessarily, without any “enhanced interrogation techniques”). When I approached the first TSA agent (the one who compares the name and photo on your ID to your boarding pass),  I asked what this cryptic message meant. She motioned me over to a screening station apart from the ones where Mr. Excitement had to go. (Uh oh. First enhanced interrogation technique: separation from loved ones).

As I approached the belt for the items to be x-rayed, I reflexively started to kick off my shoes, but the smiling (“smiling” is not a typo) TSA agent told me I didn’t have to take off my shoes nor remove my jacket. I didn’t have to display my quart size, clear plastic 3-1-1 liquids bag nor remove my computer from my carry on. I just put it on the belt and walked through the magnetometer. I was through the TSA security check in about 30 seconds. Of course, I had to wait for Mr. Excitement who finally emerged some time later, wondering what had become of me. For our next four flights, we both had the blessed “TSA PRECHK” on our boarding passes and had the “almost like flying in the good old days” treatment.

So, What is TSA PreCheck?

PreCheck is a TSA initiative to provide expedited security screening to “low risk passengers”, currently available at 118 US airports. Passengers on the following 11 participating airlines are currently eligible for PreCheck if they meet the other criteria:

Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Sun Country Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways and Virgin America (Note: US Airways is in the process of being fully merged with American Airlines)

According to the TSA website, those eligible for TSA PreCheck eligibility include:

  • U.S. citizens of frequent flyer programs who meet TSA-mandated criteria and who have been invited by a participating airline. (I think this has been responsible for my hitting the TSA PreCheck bonanza on my last 5 flights.)
  • U.S. citizens with a Known Traveler Number (KTN).
  • U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, and lawful permanent residents who are members of theTSA Pre✓™ application program.
  • U.S. citizens who are members of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) trusted traveler program, such as Global Entry, NEXUS and SENTRI.
  • Canadian citizens who are members of NEXUS.
  • Foreign citizens of select countries who are members of Global Entry (see Global Entry eligibility) and not registered as a U.S. lawful permanent resident.
  • Members of the U.S. Armed Forces, including those serving in the U.S. Coast Guard, Reserves, and National Guard.
  • Department of Defense and U.S. Coast Guard civilian employees.

Certain other passengers who don’t meet these criteria may be sent to the PreCheck expedited screening line based on “observation” by “trained” personnel that they appear low risk (supposedly based on observation of behavior, not “profiling”). (Hint: Don’t appear anxious in the security line. I’m not sure how they differentiate fear of flying from fear of having one’s bomb detected).

There is some static from people who paid $85 to be qualified for PreCheck. They are understandably annoyed that their “expedited” TSA security line is being lengthened by reprobates people (such as moi) who didn’t pay the application fee and didn’t go through the hassle of the application process, but are being sprinkled with TSA pixie dust anyway .

My inclination is to think that TSA PreCheck is the best thing since sliced bread, but I have read some thought provoking commentary about some downsides of the program.

[Feb. 6, 2016 update: Supposedly, TSA has done away with granting TSA PreCheck to people who are not in a trusted traveler program or the military, but as recently as last month, travelers were reporting still getting it randomly on their boarding pass and finding PreCheck lines longer than the so-called regular lanes and full of people who had no clue that they didn’t have to remove their shoes, etc., and were slowing down the line. Further, people who have been granted status in a trusted traveler program (i.e. Global Entry) reported being randomly selected for special “enhanced” screening—twice in one trip. Others report that are finding more often that the PreCheck lane(s) is not staffed and so not available].

Have you gone through the TSA PreCheck application process? Are you routinely selected for TSA PreCheck (without the formal application process) or are you routinely not selected? What do you think of the program?

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{ 106 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Paul Graham May 25, 2014 at 3:56 pm

Hi Suzanne. Thanks for sharing this interesting info on TSA pre-check. I have never looked into it based on the ( possibly optimistic ) view that we all leave at the same time. My experience is rather mixed. About 1/3rd of the time I am delayed by the fact that one DAVID Graham is on some bad lads list and apparently that is too much like PAUL Graham for the terminally conscientious . About 1/3rd I follow the normal soup line and about 1/3rd I get to keep my shoes on. Now that I Know the latter reflects my being observed as low risk I will try to remember the demeanor that accounts for it but will wear my intact socks anyway !

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 25, 2014 at 4:35 pm

Thanks for your comment, Paul. I imagine it would be a bit of a nightmare to end up on a “watch” list because of one’s last name, but it happened to the late Senator Ted Kennedy, so clearly they’d rather be zealous. Until now. I imagine TSA precheck will be popular until the first terrorist boards a plane through that line. The fact that we all leave at the same time does not make me more patient in the security line because I usually need to buy a drink and some food for the plane ride; I’d like to avail myself of the um, facilities; and, oftentimes the waiting lounges don’t have sufficient seats–and certainly electrical outlets for those of us who want to board with our devices topped off with maximum power.

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avatar Catarina May 25, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Reading what you write about TSA Precheck convinced me I will not go to the United States. Sure the authorities have to do something to show that they are doing everything they can to stop terrorists. But, make no bones about it, there is no way of stopping an intelligent terrorist.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 25, 2014 at 4:39 pm

Caterina, it is a shame that you have deleted the US from your “intend to visit” list because of the TSA security procedures. There is some amount of security that can decrease, or even significantly decrease. the chance of a terrorist boarding a plane (the El Al safety record springs to mind), but each person must balance the loss of privacy and time versus the gain or perceived gain—as it applies to them. I agree that tragically, a determined terrorist will someday again get through (i.e. the shoe and underwear bombers—although they did not board their flights in the US).

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avatar Patricia Weber May 25, 2014 at 4:14 pm

My husband and I have also been designated TSA Precheck for the last two of three trips. It speeds things up a bit until he goes through the screening and his hip replacement causes him to be hand patted. Sigh. I kind of like being surprised with it so, no application for me. Plus, if you read that, you have to have ANOTHER code for booking flights. I like simplicity more and more these days.

Great post!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 25, 2014 at 4:41 pm

I’m with you, Patricia. Yay if I am selected for TSA PreCheck, but I’m not inclined to file an application for it which seems like an expensive hassle.

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avatar Jacqueline Gum (Jacquie) May 25, 2014 at 6:44 pm

Oh I am so happy that you have explained this! The last 2 flight I took, I was duly anointed for the TSA precheck! I still have no idea why…I surely don’t know anyone, I don’t have “peeps” in the TSA or any airline and I travel only 3 or 4 times a year. Still have no idea why, but I’m grateful for being able to keep my shoes on…that still grosses me out entirely! But not grateful enough to pay for it

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avatar Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer) May 25, 2014 at 7:10 pm

Do you belong to a Frequent Flyer program? The other rumor is that we women of a certain age (I.e. post-menopausal) don’t look terroristic.

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avatar Debra Yearwood May 25, 2014 at 7:10 pm

Thanks for the info. I have looked at the almost empty Nexus line when driving over the border and wondered what magic formula that was all about and have on occasion gone through the line at the airport with little fuss but I had no idea what was behind it. Glad to know there is some attempt at not holding us all in a state of fear.

I had to laugh at your description of the person reading the TSA signage in line. I have been known to roll my eyes upon seeing these folks. My laptop is generally out and ready to slip into it’s own tray way before I get to security check and I have “travel clothes” so I don’t end up feeling stupid or naked in line. As for the liquids, I just buy a mini tube of toothpaste on arrival at my destination or ask the hotel for one when I’m checking in.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 25, 2014 at 9:43 pm

Debra, I wouldn’t mind being behind you in the TSA security line. You obviously have the routine down to a science.

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avatar Beth Niebuhr May 25, 2014 at 7:28 pm

Sob, I miss the good old days. Suzanne, I always get a smile out of your crossed out words and phrases! I don’t enjoy commercial flights so much anymore since we have been conditioned to wonder about our fellow passengers but it still is a great way to travel.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 25, 2014 at 9:48 pm

We’re so conditioned that we think PreCheck is great. I remember when you could actually say good-bye to or meet someone at the gate. I’m THAT old.

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avatar TheGirl May 25, 2014 at 8:56 pm

Oh wow, so you can just pay $85 and be considered low risk and pre-checked? I always wondered how long it would take for TSA to spin around the post 9/11 airport security nonsense into a money-making machine.

Glad you had a safe trip though.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 25, 2014 at 9:51 pm

Theoretically, that’s how it works, but as someone else commented on my Facebook page, they paid the $85 and went through the PITA procedure to be pre-approved and they are thoroughly annoyed when they occasionally still are randomly picked for enhanced screening while more and more people who aren’t pre-approved are selected by their airline or by TSA on the spot to go through the pre-check line.

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avatar Leora May 25, 2014 at 9:04 pm

I think there are better ways of doing security, and TSA isn’t really interested in finding those ways out. Sigh. The last two times I traveled by plane was to Israel – the Israeli security experts have a better grasp on how to detect the problems.

OK, TSA will just take away someone’s nail clippers. Now I feel safer?

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 25, 2014 at 9:52 pm

Leora, unless you have some very intense nail clippers, I think those are OK with the TSA—remember, that is not legal advice 😉

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avatar Laurie Hurley May 25, 2014 at 9:11 pm

Lucky! I don’t fly enough to qualify. When I fly to Boston this summer, I am fully prepared to be strip searched and held up. So, I’ll leave four hours before my flight. Going for a month, and I am a terrible packer and am bringing my laptop, which is my life -so it should be interesting. I saw the news story recently about preapproved TSA list and was drooling with jealously, for that will never be me unless I start flying once a week. Bummer. Thanks for the reminder of what lies ahead for me in August!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 25, 2014 at 9:57 pm

Laurie– you might be pleasantly surprised. Try signing up for your airline’s frequent flyer program. You don’t really have to be a Frequent Flyer to be in their program. You can usually just sign up on line. People earn Frequent Flyer points all sorts of ways. I don’t think they look at the number of points. I also think women of a certain age have an edge. I had TSA Pre-Check on our last flight from Honolulu on Hawaiian Air and I don’t belong to their Frequent Flyer program. Happy trails 🙂

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avatar Christina May 25, 2014 at 9:52 pm

I want some TSA pixie dust. The last magic wand that was waved at me was as a random scanning of hands for . . . flu viruses? Really, that’s the best they can come up with? And they took my authentic adobe sauce that you can only get at one restaurant in New Mexico 🙁

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 25, 2014 at 9:59 pm

Christina—having one’s adobe sauce confiscated is totally awful. The hand scanning for the flu virus—that’s a new one for me.

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avatar santafetraveler May 25, 2014 at 10:48 pm

Pick me, pick me!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 26, 2014 at 5:09 pm

Billie, if I were the Queen, you would also go to the PreChk line. Alas, I’m just a mere mortal travel blogger, so you are going to have to continue to play “maybe yes, maybe no”. 😉

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avatar Donna Hull May 25, 2014 at 11:02 pm

I’ve been going through the TSA pre-check line as well, probably because of ff status. Sometimes my husband, Alan, is lucky and other times I wave to him from the “easy” line. I’d be ticked if I had paid $85 while others are randomly chosen to go through for free. About those slip on shoes, I wear tennis shoes and have mastered the art of taking them off without untying them. Yes, I’m fast.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 26, 2014 at 5:07 pm

Donna, I can slip off certain tie shoes without untying them too, but I can’t put them on again without untying them and then tying them again. This requires one to find somewhere to sit while juggling a computer, personal item, a carry on and one’s sneakers or shoes—not always so easy

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avatar Neva @ Retire for the Fun of it May 25, 2014 at 11:42 pm

My daughter (ff) and I (not recent ff) will be flying to Europe next month and it’ll be interesting how we will be treated. The funniest profiling came when my grandson’s baby book was checked page by page. Now who would expect a 6 month old terrorist, along with his mom & grandmom to be flying with his baby book (sigh).

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 26, 2014 at 5:04 pm

Neva, that baby book thing is just down right weird. Maybe they thought he was cute and just wanted to see the Baby Book—-one can hope, anyway.

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avatar Lis Sowerbuts May 26, 2014 at 12:34 am

I’d heard so much about the dreaded TSA I expected the worst – particularly at LAX! Frankly – they were more polite than the Australians – and quicker than the checks in London! Really I don’t see the big deal. I think the idea that you can buy your way out of security is plane stupid – if you want to see real security fly El Al to Tel Aviv sometime.

And I never wear socks – of any description when flying – too much hassel to get on and off when I get hot on the plane!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 26, 2014 at 5:03 pm

Lis, please tell me you don’t go to the bathroom on a plane in bare feet!

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avatar Michelle May 26, 2014 at 2:03 am

I was laughing so hard reading your perfect description of the security screening process at the airport. It sure does make my day when I get the TSA Precheck privilege. I keep meaning to check into “Global Entry” when I’m home long enough.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 26, 2014 at 5:02 pm

Me too—meaning to check into applying for the Global Entry program.

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avatar Donna Janke May 26, 2014 at 3:53 am

Your description of the TSA pre-check experience made me smile. It is so accurate. I, too, remember “flying in the good old days”.

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avatar Nancie May 26, 2014 at 4:33 am

I wonder if that could have kept me out of the dreaded body scanner in Bangkok. Actually no, it was my bad luck that I got in the wrong line. There was no way of knowing that I was going to end up feeling like I was part of a body snatcher movie. Next time I go to Canada I should get a NEXUS card, but NO, that could put me on the radar and I want to say a non-resident!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 26, 2014 at 10:23 am

Nancie, we can blame the TSA for lots of things, but not being scanned in Bangkok! 😉

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avatar Robert Fowler May 26, 2014 at 7:35 am

The last three flights we took, Mary Ann always gets the pre check and I do not. I asked the agent about this and it was explained it was random and she may not always get the TSA precheck status. It sounds like from the stories I hear it is more common that the females get the precheck and the husbands do not. Don’t they realize what a logistic nightmare this causes! Suzanne thanks for posting more details about this so it’s not such a mystery.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 26, 2014 at 5:01 pm

It’s true that I’ve never not gotten TSA PreChk when my husband has, but he hasn’t always gotten it when I have. I do think there is a “woman of a certain age” who’s a frequent flyer undeclared profile, but even folks who pay to get TSA PreCheck can find themselves in the “wrong” line sometimes because there is still supposed to be some random selection (and deselection).

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avatar Irene S. Levine May 26, 2014 at 8:15 am

Nice post!

For a frequent traveler, I think Global Entry (GOES) is the next best thing to sliced bread. When pre-check is available, GOES enables you to take advantage of Pre-Check.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 26, 2014 at 4:58 pm

I don’t feel that we travel enough internationally to apply for the Global Entry program although the next time I’m standing in a ridiculously long immigration line at a US airport, I may well regret that I didn’t do it. Stay tuned. 😉

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avatar Lenie May 26, 2014 at 8:46 am

Hi Suzanne
I really enjoy your posts and the way you write – you always bring a chuckle. I know in this day and age its hard to believe but I have only flown twice in my life and that was back in the 60’s when we had no precheck and were catered to on the flights. Amazing stuff.
By the way, I was born in January 1945 – if that doesn’t make me a boomer, what am I?
Lenie

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 26, 2014 at 4:56 pm

Lenie- By the power invested in me by Boomeresque, I proclaim you an honorary Baby Boomer. 🙂

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avatar Roz Warren May 26, 2014 at 9:19 am

I am apparently on the Harmless Librarian List and get Pre Checked most of the time. 🙂

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 26, 2014 at 4:51 pm

Roz, from my life experience, it’s the “harmless librarian” types that you have to watch out for! 😉

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avatar Bermtopia May 26, 2014 at 9:54 am

Sometime back I too was sprinkled TSA Pre-check pixie dust and have never looked back. I have no idea how I became a member of the club except that I fly regularly between Bermtopia and PDX — usually without incident.

The one thing I have learned is it’s not a lock. I had Pre-check flying TO Maui in March but had to go through the full meal deal of security on the return. Perhaps it has something to do with Hawaii’s exit agricultural screening or I somehow resembled a known rambutan smuggler. We’ll find out when we go back in January.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 26, 2014 at 4:50 pm

I just thought of something else to worry about. If I were a terrorist (which I most certainly am not), with TSA PRECHK now printed on some boarding passes before one goes through the security line, they might think it might be possible to slip something through the security check because they likely would not be pulled for the more thorough regular check—although it’s still possible to be sent to the full check line even if you have TSA PRECHK.

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avatar Carol Cassara May 26, 2014 at 10:12 am

I’ve been getting pre-check most of the time, lately, but not all the time.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 26, 2014 at 4:46 pm

Carol, could you perhaps be a woman of a certain age? Apparently, that helps.

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avatar William Butler May 26, 2014 at 10:55 am

Hi Suzanne,
A few hours into a flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu, the plane lost one of its engines and we had to return to LAX. Everyone deplaned and had to reclaim their luggage while the airline arranged for a replacement flight. Even though we went through all the security checks the first time, we had to go through it all a second time.

We were tired and anxious to get to our destination. At 3 a.m. when the replacement plane arrived and they started boarding, my wife and I were at the front of the line.
The agent took me aside (after sitting in his kiosk for a couple of hours and occasionally smiling at us) and demanded to go through my carry-on luggage.

My wife went ahead. Another agent stepped in to allow the others to board.
After the first one went through my carry on, and I was the last person to board.

I said to him, “You targeted me, didn’t you?” He says, “No, I have the right to inspect any luggage. He didn’t find anything unusual, but he sure left me with a bad impression.

On a brighter note, we’ve since been several places without incident.

Bill

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 26, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Bill, sounds like a really not fun experience. I suspect TSA is required to “randomly” search a certain number of people. I think you might have been picked because you looked like the person least likely to have something that would have delayed the flight further — or am I becoming cynical in my old age?

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avatar Valerie Rind May 26, 2014 at 11:19 am

Great post!

I was immediately suspicious the first time I was TSA Pre-checked – like perhaps they were speeding me thru because an interrogator was waiting on the other side.

I wish I were a permanent member of the club; it seems sort of random so I end up having to plan as if I’m one of the regular sheep shuffling through the process.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 26, 2014 at 4:42 pm

With all the news about government “spying” on citizens (and everybody else) in the US, it’s hard not to feel paranoid—even if you have nothing to hide.

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avatar Michelle Richmond May 26, 2014 at 12:13 pm

I was invited to apply by DL and it’s the best thing I could have done. Sent in the application, but never heard back from anyone. Imagine my surprise the next time I boarded a flight (and every one thereafter) and saw those coveted words on my boarding pass.
It does make life so much easier!

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avatar Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer) May 26, 2014 at 11:31 pm

Is DL Delta?

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avatar Michele Peterson May 26, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Those are great tips even for Canadians! I love your sense of humour and your strategy on avoiding getting bogged down in security lines. I always seem to pick the line-up with the people who don’t realize they’re wearing a belt or have change in their pockets!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 26, 2014 at 6:14 pm

Michele—I’ve most definitely been there and done that! Last time, that person was my husband. I just pretended I didn’t know him.

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avatar Tim May 26, 2014 at 6:33 pm

As much as I am in airports and in the air I had not heard of this designation ever being handed out without an application for it. Hmmmm. I have never applied for it or been given it out of the kindness of someones “profiling”. I think I may ask if United continues it’s refusal.

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avatar Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer) May 26, 2014 at 11:31 pm

Tim, I think your problem might be not being a woman of a certain age. 😉

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avatar jenny May 26, 2014 at 9:21 pm

My issue is that it is one more example where one has to be wealthy in order not to have to wait in long lines and to not have to sit in the middle seat.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 26, 2014 at 11:41 pm

Jenny, in addition to the folks who pay the $85 and go through the application (including being fingerprinted), TSA is also opening PreCheck to others—-i.e. me! Anyone can join a Frequent Flyer program. Airlines aren’t philanthropies. I don’t have a problem with them charging for premium seating. I can assure you from personal experience that it’s not just poor people in middle seats—book early and choose a seat.

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avatar Patti May 26, 2014 at 9:29 pm

I just recently scored my first pre-approval. For those of us (practically everyone?) who travel with a laptop, I agree with your sentiment of being right up there with life’s bread. Unfortunately, hubby didn’t get the pre-approval so he had to do the whole regiment to get through. Yippee though, tomorrow morning we both have preapproval and since our boarding time is 5:25 a.m. it will be especially nice to not have to go through the security maze of lines, since I will be asleep on my feet. Hopefully, this is a sign of the times! Fun post!

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avatar Patti May 26, 2014 at 9:29 pm

p.s. We did not pay to get pre-approved. 😉

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 26, 2014 at 11:44 pm

Congratulations! I just hope they don’t randomly select you to be un-PreChecked which apparently does happen because that would be a cruel trick at 5:25 a.m.

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avatar Corinne May 27, 2014 at 7:01 am

Suzanne, These are great tips. I hope everyone reads them!

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avatar Dari May 27, 2014 at 8:47 am

We did the whole Global Entry thing…had to apply, pay and wait for pre-approval for an interview appointment. The interview has to be at their office at an airport.
We used their Phoenix Airport location and were photographed and finger-printed.
The Global Entry works like a charm!
When we arrived in the US from a very long international flight, we just skipped ALL the lines and used a kiosk.
The passport is scanned, a photo is taken and a receipt is printed.
The receipt gets handed to the officer in the kiosk section and off we go. VERY nice!!
If you do a lot of international travel, it’s worth it.

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avatar Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer) May 27, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Thanks, Dari. We leave for a trip to Munich, Vienna and Budapest in September. If we have a nightmare experience getting through US immigration on our return, I may reconsider and apply for Global Entry. If you do any international travel and you’re willing to go through the expense and hassle of the application process for TSA PreCheck, you might as well apply for Global Entry which will also make you eligible for TSA PreCheck.

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avatar Dyanne@TravelnLass May 27, 2014 at 10:42 am

“(“smiling” is not a typo)” lol Ms. Excitement – I always enjoy your droll take on things.

That said – while I for one am all for tight security whenever I opt to be encased in a sealed metal tube that’s headed for 30,000 feet with a couple few hundred strangers, I must say…

I’m glad that I rarely enter/depart the U.S. anymore (but once in the past 3 years). While such stringent security measures are far more lax in other nations, too bad the U.S. continues to be more of a target for the meanies than say… Mongolia or sweet little Laos.

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avatar Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer) May 27, 2014 at 3:58 pm

I try not to think too much about why we go through the extra security screening in the US. Maybe after my first flight on El Al, even a full TSA security check will seem easy in comparison.

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avatar Kristin Henning May 27, 2014 at 3:19 pm

You had me at recovering the last ziplock bag.

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avatar Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer) May 28, 2014 at 11:40 am

Think about what a boon 3-1-1 had been for the manufacturers of quart size, see through, plastic bags!

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avatar Lisa Richardson May 27, 2014 at 4:46 pm

the random nature of precheck makes it questionable. Last time, the platinum guy got regular screening and the no-status spouse (me) pre-screened. My socks were perfect!

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avatar Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer) May 28, 2014 at 11:38 am

Or—the random nature keeps the terrorists and the regular folks guessing.

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avatar Susan Cooper May 27, 2014 at 7:28 pm

I LOVE the PreCheck and have been selected with that “pixie dust” of late. I have really enjoyed the ease of it all. I have now started the application process because of it. Nevertheless, I have so enjoy being sprinkled with “TSA pixie” dust anyway. They can continue to that anytime they like… LOL.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 28, 2014 at 12:21 am

Susan, from what I’ve been reading, it may not be worth the money and time to apply for pre – check since they can still randomly select you for a full screening while some other freeloader (like me) waltzes through the Pre-security line.

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avatar Sarah May 27, 2014 at 9:31 pm

I fly air Canada a lot and have been TSA pre checked. I think its mostly because I fly alone with two young kids. The kids are not allowed to go through the x-ray machine so we get moved along quickly. I can’t tell you how many men in suits have tried to sneak through with us.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 28, 2014 at 12:18 am

Hmm. Maybe you should rent out the kids to people in a hurry to get through security. Of course, that could cause problems worse than being selected for a “special” TSA screening.

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avatar Meredith Wouters May 27, 2014 at 10:38 pm

You had me cracking up, at a topic that’s not usually funny. I so relate to your 3-1-1 baggy experience! Thanks for all the info, and especially for the smiles!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 28, 2014 at 12:16 am

I think the only way to humanize the flying expedience these days is with humor. Thanks for your comment.

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avatar Caryn/The Mid Life Guru May 28, 2014 at 1:33 am

I am giddy with joy every time I receive the TSA PreCheck bonus on my boarding pass. What a clever gimmick. I am sold and seriously contemplating paying the extra fee when it goes live.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 28, 2014 at 1:44 am

It’s live! In fact, I might suggest not paying the fee because chances are much better than even that you’ll always get TSA PreCheck if your airline and the airport participate and if you are a “frequent flyer” on the airline. Another reader complained that they did pay the fee and go through the application process and still were randomly chosen for the usual security check. So, you might want to give it a little more time before you spend your money and your time on the TSA PreCheck application.

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avatar noel May 28, 2014 at 9:44 pm

Wow, I didn’t know this can happen for free, good for you especially since you’ve been flying quite a bit this year, lucky you! Thanks for explaining the process to us on the regular program Suzanne

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 29, 2014 at 12:30 am

Noel, you could also have some TSA pixie dust sprinkled on you.

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avatar Jason B May 29, 2014 at 8:59 am

I’ve never heard of the TSA PreCheck application process. It sounds good, but I wouldn’t pay $85 for it.

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avatar Doreen Pendgracs May 30, 2014 at 8:51 am

Wonderful post Suzanne. I’ve had a Nexus card for the past few years and it has saved me countless hours in line and a lot of frustration. I’m glad they’re doing some pre-screening, but like you, have some reservations as to how liberally the process may be applied.

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avatar Jo May 30, 2014 at 6:02 pm

Great advice Suzanne. I’m looking at taking my first trip to North America post 2001 next year, and I must admit the thought of US security was a real deterrent. I think I can make the cut!

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 31, 2014 at 12:58 am

If you’re not a US or Canadian citizen, I’m afraid you will be subject to extra scrutiny and won’t be eligible for the TSA PreChk or global entry programs. If they ask me, I’ll vouch for you!

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avatar Carl May 30, 2014 at 11:05 pm

As someone currently not living in the States (Korea atm), I always get depressed upon reentry at home and having to deal with customs/tsa agents and regulations. Things seem so much easier everywhere else and yes, there are threats here too.

I’ve never seen so much as a smile and generally get called out for something I’ve (unknowingly) done wrong. This program looks like something worth looking into but as you say, it might get too clogged to be an advantage over the regular way of going through. Thanks for sharing this.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 31, 2014 at 12:52 am

Thanks for stopping by all the way from Korea. In our global society, everywhere is now a target for someone’s ire and unfortunately, the vehicle chosen to “communicate” is often violent. Security services have to walk a fine line between over zealousness and laxity. The truth is that people complain about the inconvenience of security measures — until something bad happens. I wish human beings could learn to interact without using death and destruction as “statments”. 🙁

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avatar Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com June 4, 2014 at 5:57 pm

Hi Suzanne! Yay! My husband and I went through the application process and are now SENTRI approved. We haven’t used it yet at the airports but it allows us to easily go back and forth across the Mexican Border where we have friends. Now I’m looking forward to using it at the airport….who would have thought that something like that would be such a thrill! 🙂 Thanks for sharing how it works! ~Kathy

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr June 7, 2014 at 9:08 pm

I had to do some research on the SENTRI program. It sounds as though it’s specifically for people who often cross the land border to and from Mexico by car, but that it does also get you Global Entry and therefore, TSA PreCheck.

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avatar susan - ofeverymoment June 17, 2014 at 12:26 am

Thanks for this explanation! I always thought the TSA PreCheck was just randomly assigned.

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avatar Suzanne Fluhr June 23, 2014 at 12:54 am

No, Susan. You can pay for TSA PreCheck or just hope for the pixie dust. 😉

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avatar Ally July 9, 2014 at 11:53 pm

Yes I noticed that on a sign when i was flying through the us this year but also didn’t quite understand it. I didn’t have it on my ticket but since I was wearing an unflattering dress the lady let me skip certain protocols anyway as I think she assumed I was pregnant such as not having to take off my shoes or jumper. Lucky I guess, I find US customs the most stringent out of all the ones I’ve been through so far.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr July 25, 2014 at 2:50 am

Hmm. I’m out of luck. I no longer have the capacity to look pregnant (been there, done that). At my age, I would just look fat. I confess, I usually feel sorry for people without US passports going through US immigration when returning home. Actually, my son has a US passport, but has been given a hard time returning from South America to Miami sometimes—young guy, drug hub.

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avatar Lance @ Travel Addicts September 4, 2014 at 1:03 pm

TSA PreCheck and Global Entry have changed my life. I figure, between the two of them, I skip about 30-40 hours per year of waiting in line.

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avatar Kathy Radigan October 6, 2014 at 7:56 am

Thanks for the great info! I’m not much of a flyer but it’s nice to know these programs exist. Of course I’m a nervous flyer so I think I have a low risk of getting the special pixie dust! Lol!

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avatar The Shitastrophy October 6, 2014 at 8:49 am

My hubs got TSA recheck when it just started out. He had to travel to NYC and have a FBI guy meet with him and thoroughly vet him. He would be one of those annoyed the dust is being sprinkled on those that didn’t have to go through the whole process. He is a travel warrior, every week he is off to somewhere. I myself would love a little dust sprinkled on me since he stands on the other side anxiously awaiting me and sighing as they take out the hand sanitizer I forgot to put in the clear quart bag.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr October 6, 2014 at 12:24 pm

When family members are traveling together and one family member has or is sprinkled with TSA precheck, and the other or others aren’t, it kind of negates the benefit of Precheck, but for a sky warrior such as your husband—it’s absolutely worth it.

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avatar Haralee October 6, 2014 at 11:31 am

My last few flights I have gotten the PreCheck and didn’t know how but I wasn’t going to question or complain. Now I think I know!

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avatar Estelle Erasmus October 6, 2014 at 12:18 pm

My hubby who is South African by the way is getting the PreCheck authorization. Thanks for sharing and have a safe trip.

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avatar nancy@skinnykitchen.com October 6, 2014 at 1:25 pm

Suzanne, you just reminded me that I must sign up for this. I do a lot of traveling and this would be so wonderful!

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avatar Claudia Schmidt October 6, 2014 at 2:34 pm

Hi Sarah, I was on that TSA Precheck for a few flights in the end of last year and the first quarter of this year, but then all of a sudden it stopped and now I’m back to regular old check-in. I was just estatic with that TSA PC, not having to take off shoes and belts, etc. was a big treat but now that they’ve teased me with it, it just makes it all the more annoying that I have to go back to the old tedious ways again. 🙁 Not exactly sure why they changed me, but am hoping it reverts back on some upcoming flights!

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avatar bunsofaluminum October 16, 2014 at 6:14 pm

I laughed so hard at your depiction of the delights of air travel, but what came home with clarity for me was the bit about dumping out the frozen from your last quart bag and blow drying it! hahahahaha! excellent! Made me giggle.

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avatar Andrea May 6, 2015 at 9:18 am

Almost 1 year since this blog post, and now TSA Pre-Check is no longer being offered free! Now, if you want TSA Pre-Check, it’s an $85 fee and it’s good for 5 years. I think your blog made it too popular!

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avatar Jacqueline Gum August 25, 2015 at 6:11 pm

I just found out that my American Express card is what has afforded me TSA pretty check status. I love it and am grateful!

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avatar Cathy Sweeney February 7, 2016 at 1:53 pm

We’ve gotten TSA Pre-check status on our flights consistently for quite a while. Don’t actually remember when it first appeared on our boarding passes, but we were happy to see it. It’s so much more convenient. Never applied for it. Based on your Feb. 6th update, I hope that we won’t be back to general security in the future.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr February 7, 2016 at 2:08 pm

I have 6 donestic flights up in the next 3 weeks. Fingers crossed.

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avatar David Jones May 16, 2016 at 4:29 pm

My wife and I spent the time getting photographed, fingerprinted, vetted, trip to the airport, parking fees and $110 for 5 years to qualify for Pre-check and Global Entry. On our first trip we found it did us no good because Frontier Airlines does not participate. We still don’t understand why that should make any difference. We have a picture ID card, but TSA does not honor it.
On another trip we did benefit returning from Belize through Houston where we were ushered past a very long line waiting for U.S. Customs. It was the Global Entry feature that got us a rubber stamp, no muss no fuss. Still had to wait to board our next flight to Denver in regular TSA line because Pre-check line was closed.

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Suzanne Fluhr Suzanne Fluhr May 16, 2016 at 5:08 pm

David, it seems that your experiences are about par for the course these days. We are seriously considering going through the Global Entry application process after our last experience getting through US immigration.

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