The TSA PreCheck Rants are Abound!

Over the last couple of days, I’ve seen quite a bit of back and forth between a few prominent travel bloggers and the TSA on Twitter. While government bureaucracy isn’t sexy and the TSA probably isn’t America’s favorite federal agency, TSA PreCheck has been quite a time saver since I gained the benefit earlier this year. I gained the PreCheck benefits through my Global Entry membership for $100 for 5 years. Not a bad price when comes out to about 5 cents a day for a pretty cool benefit. I wrote a previous post about how my application experience went. 

Everyone has a different experience and it’s not for everyone but here are my personal observations:

1) I’ve had 100% success rate on all my flight bookings since joining. I hope that keeps up but I’, expecting a time where it won’t work at some point.

2) Most PreCheck travelers are fairly efficient and understand the process. However, some appear to have no idea of what PreCheck is and I’m not sure if they even recall signing up for it. And yes, I am aware that the TSA occasionally lets random passengers into the PreCheck lines. I’ve rarely seen that occur lately.

3) It’s just about essential when flying through major leisure airports like. I’m frequently in Orlando or Tampa where TSA PreCheck is totally worth it. There’s not many business travelers so the PreCheck lines are short. Plus leisure airports usually means lots of slow, infrequent travelers who can barely figure out how to take off their shoes. Honolulu was another place where I saved a ton of time.

4) If you’re flying through major business hubs like LAX or JFK, expect to be in line with a lot of others PreCheck travelers. Heavy business traffic. It may not save you time but it will save you the headache of removing shoes and belts.

The TSA is currently looking to expand the PreCheck program to more travelers which has many frequent travelers concerned. I think if the average traveler is educated on how TSA PreCheck works and is prepared to move through the process efficiently, I think it might work. However, forcing tons of infrequent travelers through the TSA PreCheck program who will make PreCheck vastly more inefficient is going to piss off quite a few travelers. I don’t expect TSA PreCheck to be an “elite” program but I think you’re going to be in it, there’s an expectation to be prepared for the process.

In the end, TSA is there to ensure the safety of air travel. As long as my experience with TSA PreCheck continues to go as it’s gone so far, I’ll continue to endorse it as one of the best travel perks out there.

Global Entry Approved….Finally!

I’d been contemplating registering for Global Entry on and off for a few months and finally decided it was worth the $100 bite for five years or enrollment. I travel internationally somewhat regularly but the added bonus of TSA Precheck was the perk that won me over. There’s a lot of info out there with folks sharing their various experiences with the Global Entry application process. But the average American probably doesn’t know what Global Entry is or how to sign up. Most frequent travelers love this since they despise the thought of too many folks getting in the TSA PreCheck lines. But who can blame them as the whole point of TSA PreCheck is to save time and longer lines will only defeat that.

Fortunately for myself, I’m not based out of LGA or another overcrowded airport with a half million other frequent travelers enrolled in a Trusted Traveler program. The security lines at my main airport, Dallas-Fort Worth, has very short security lines most of the time. I also use Dallas Love Field frequently which can have some heavy peak TSA lines but still nothing like LAX or LGA.

The process of applying for Global Entry does require a bit of patience. I’ve heard varying timelines of both the application and scheduling of the interview. Depending on where you live and how many Global Entry centers are nearby plays into how quickly you can get your interview. If you are applying for Global Entry, you will begin by registering in the Homeland Security GOES web portal and submitting an application for Global Entry. You can also apply for TSA PreCheck and Nexus through GOES. However, you must be near the Canadian border for your Nexus interview as Nexus centers are only in Canada and the Northern border states. If you do live near a Nexus center, it is a better value than Global Value at only $50 vs. $100 for five years.

Once you’ve submitted your application through the GOES system, the application will head off to Homeland Security for review. I’ve heard applications take as long as a couple weeks to as short as a couple days. Mine was the latter at just about 2 days to receive preliminary approval. As long as you don’t have a history of breaking the law or violating customs rules, I wouldn’t sweat being approved. The GOES system will notify you by email when there are changes to your application status. Once you receive you pre-approval electronically through the GOES system, you have 30 days to schedule your interview at a Global Entry center. DFW Airport is the only Global Entry center in the Dallas area. DFW currently has a very full schedule through the summer. I checked other airports around the country and airports like SFO, JFK, and DEN had availability for interviews much sooner. I got pre-approval in early April and the next available slot was at the end of June. After that, the next slot wasn’t until August. Not too efficient, eh?

All the travel blogs will tell you to check daily for cancellations and earlier slots to open up. I recommend this as well but it took a long time for an earlier slot to open up. A couple weeks ago, a slot opened up on June 7th. Of course, I took it. For all the waiting weeks or months for your interview, the actual interview only took me about 10 minutes of waiting in the lobby and 3 minutes for the interview. They take a quick picture and take your fingerprints. Other than long wait to schedule an interview, it’s very painless.

You’ll receive your Trusted Traveler ID number on your pre-approval letter but it won’t be any good until after your interview. Homeland Security tells you it takes 48 hours to receive the final approval email but I got mine about 2 hours later. Of course, as soon as I got home I entered my Trusted Traveler ID into all of my existing reservations and my frequent flyer profiles. I should receive my Global Entry card in about 2 weeks. I hope my picture looks nice!

Here’s to looking forward to lots of TSA PreCheck selection and painless, short U.S. re-entry!

Share your own experience with Global Entry in the comments below.