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Don’t Keep TSA PreCheck a Secret

Unlike your favorite neighborhood restaurant, telling more people about it won’t bring ruinous crowds

© Robert Churchill

Since my organization began aggressively encouraging travelers to sign up for TSA PreCheck, the TSA’s flagship trusted traveler program, I’ve received a common complaint from otherwise well-informed friends who are already enrolled:

“Why are you telling more people about TSA PreCheck? The more people sign up, the more crowded those lines will be at the airport, and the whole thing will be ruined for everyone.”

It’s easy to see how a PreCheck member might feel the same way about the program as I do about Bella Brava, one of my favorite neighborhood restaurants where I live in St. Petersburg, Florida: “If too many people know about this place, I won’t be able to get a table anymore.”

TSA PreCheck allows pre-screened travelers to go through expedited security lanes where they don’t have to remove their belts, jackets, shoes, laptops or liquids, and where the line moves, on average, twice as fast.

We’ve all seen the grim news coverage of long airport security lines to begin the summer travel season—so it’s no surprise that the threat of missing a flight while in line for TSA screening has spurred growing numbers of travelers to sign up for PreCheck and other programs like it.

With this increased interest in PreCheck in mind, I can see how those who were smart enough to enroll early would fear being slowed down by thousands of new bandwagoners. I sometimes (selfishly) wish that fewer people would discover Bella Brava. Who doesn’t enjoy feeling like they’re one of the few in on a great secret?

However, I’m here to say that TSA PreCheck is not quite the same as a neighborhood bistro. It’s an innovative program that will grow in capacity as more people enroll, not a brick-and-mortar space. The more travelers who sign up for TSA PreCheck, the more resources will be dedicated to it and the more lanes will open.

TSA PreCheck was meant to grow along with its ranks of members when it first launched, and it continues to do so—especially while Congress and the TSA are laser-focused on reducing wait times at airport security checkpoints. For proof that TSA PreCheck can and will expand along with the number of people who enroll, look no further than some of these policies that are advancing in Washington right now:

  • The U.S. House recently passed R. 5338, which would ensure that all TSA checkpoints are properly staffed according to passenger traffic—including the PreCheck lanes.
  • Provisions from the TSA PreCheck Expansion Act are included in both the House and Senate’s version of the FAA Reauthorization bill.
  • Congressional appropriations committees have approved the reprogramming of funding for additional TSA officers.
  • In response to news of growing security lines, the Department of Homeland Security announced steps they will take to better allocate staffing—again, including TSA PreCheck lanes.

TSA PreCheck is not just good for individual travelers either. It’s a boon for the efficiency—and security—of the TSA screening system at large. The bedrock precept of PreCheck is that members are thoroughly vetted before they even get to the airport, having already submitted a fingerprint and thorough biographic information that allow them to be eliminated as security threats. Yes, the program enables more people to get through the airport more quickly—but it also frees up TSA screeners to focus on the true unknowns. PreCheck facilitates the efficient, effective allocation of resources, which is the hallmark of innovative and modernized security policies.

Therefore, smart travelers should not keep TSA PreCheck a secret. If you’re already enrolled, tell your friends about the program (and brush up on these five myths about TSA PreCheck to help nudge them in the right direction if they remain unconvinced). It will make the airport security experience faster and safer for everyone.

Just don’t tell anyone else about Bella Brava.

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