Even with PreCheck, Airport Security Lines Are too Long

a man and dog standing in a hallway with a woman behind him

Last summer, the TSA’s inability to efficiently manage the country’s airport security checkpoints was front-page news, complete with photos of choked lines and stories of missed flights. More recently, the TSA  has managed to stay out of the limelight. Problem solved?

If you were to judge from the TSA’s dedicated PreCheck webpage, the expedited security-clearance service is a hands-down success. According to the site:

  • 97% of PreCheck travelers waited less than five minutes in February
  • More than 4 million travelers are enrolled in PreCheck
  • PreCheck is available from 30 airlines, at more than 180 airports

All’s well in the airport security-screening world, apparently.

But a newly released report by OAG, Travel Tech Landscape Intensifies, calls into question the TSA’s rosy picture.

In a survey of almost 2,500 users of OAG’s mobile travel app (suggesting they’re very active travelers), clearing airport security checkpoints was identified as a particular “pain point.” A full 45 percent of PreCheck-enrolled respondents complained that PreCheck lines had become too crowded and that the service was losing its value. The dissatisfaction rate was even higher among business travelers, with 57 percent reporting frustration with the service.

The Department of Homeland Security has set a goal of enrolling 25 million in the PreCheck and Global Entry trusted traveler programs. That’s ambitious under the best of circumstances. With the low levels of satisfaction uncovered in the OAG survey, such numbers aren’t just a stretch, they’re a pipe dream.

Which, ironically, may be all to the good. There are already too many trusted travelers in the expedited clearance lines. Adding to their numbers, without a significant increase in TSA staffing (unlikely), would just make matters worse.

Reader Reality Check

Is it worth $85 for five years of PreCheck

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and almost that long writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

This article first appeared on SmarterTravel.com, where Tim is Editor-at-Large.


  1. Herb Spencer says

    $85 seems a touch much to me, especially since it’s a tax deductible business expense for the employed, but not discounted for seniors. But, that’s what happens when you incur the completely unnecessary expense of a unionized government workforce like TSA. One thing’s certain: it’s nice not to see Jeh Johnson promoting himself onscreen at security checkpoints at major airports.

  2. Jason Brandt Lewis says

    NO, it’s NEVER been worth the $85 for Pre-Check. It IS, however, well worth the $100 for GLOBAL ENTRY, which has Pre-Check included.

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