TSA messes with Pre TSA, frustrated Business Travelers and Newbies

Leave it to the TSA to frustrate all users of Pre TSA, those who are registered pre TSA like myself and people they try to introduce Pre TSA to.  It used to be I could get through pre TSA in less than 5 minutes.  Now it can be 10-15 minutes because the TSA let’s people they think should try pre TSA give it try.  WSJ article writes on this problem so let’s just point to the same things the do.

First WSJ says there is a problem.  Yep.

Trouble Selling Fliers on the Fast Airport Security Line

TSA Precheck program is stirring traveler confusion, aggravation

TSA is trying to get more people to sign up.

Trying to hook new enrollees, TSA has been funneling regular travelers into Precheck lanes for a sample of swifter security. Some of the newbies get confused, however, and end up clogging the expedited lanes, angering Precheck veterans. And some regular travelers are getting the free perk so often they conclude they are already in the program and don't need to enroll.

The WSJ asked an Operations Management professor for comments.

"It used to be great, but recently the Precheck lines have been the slowest of all the lines," said Fred Van Bennekom, who teaches operations management at Northeastern University and has timed TSA lines out of curiosity. "Sometimes there's almost no one in regular lines and we're all backed up at Precheck."

The mess up starts because the TSA let’s passengers who don’t know what pre TSA is in line, and they are almost always totally confused.

The influx of people to Precheck annoys some program veterans. Ann Fries says she sometimes finds 20 people in the Precheck line at Tampa, Fla., her home airport. Many get befuddled when told they don't have to take off their shoes and can leave liquids and laptops in bags. They ask why, slowing the line. Then they ask how they ended up in that lane.

"We went from people who knew what they were doing to people in line who don't know what they are doing," said Ms. Fries, who signed up for Global Entry to get Precheck when it first started.

Thank god, the TSA figured out people 75 or older are not good to add to the pre TSA line.

Mr. Pistole said he has heard the complaints about Precheck lanes getting clogged, and TSA has already decided to stop moving travelers 75 years of age and older into Precheck service, unless they are enrolled, because they sometimes can take 10 minutes to move through. As Precheck enrollment grows, the "managed inclusion" effort will be phased out, he said.

And here is the kicker how TSA has shot themselves in the foot.

The Precheck free trial has confused some travelers—including Dr. Van Bennekom, the Northeastern University professor—who routinely get boarding passes printed with "TSA Precheck" and assume they are now enrolled in the program. After several trips with free Precheck privileges, Dr. Van Bennekom went to a Precheck lane only to be turned away. He learned he had to pay to be enrolled.

If the trial access was an enticement to buy, "then they are lousy marketers," he said. "I've never received any communication that says, 'Now that you've experienced fast check in, for only $85 …' " For now, he says he gets free Precheck so frequently he won't bother to sign up.