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.

Sunday Was My Proof for the Naysayers That Airline Status Matters

For a lot of travelers, the point of flying is to get from Point A to Point B as quickly and as cheaply as possible. But for those of us travel hackers/mile hoarders/road warriors,  it’s much more than that. While my friends and family don’t criticize my obsession with miles and airline status, I’m sure there are those who find the hobby a complete waste of time and money. But this last weekend on my return to Dallas from Florida via Orlando (on July 4th weekend) was a prime example of why airline status is worth the effort and bit of cash.

While I’m only the lowly Premier Silver with United Airlines, the basic perks of simply Silver will save you all kinds of headaches. I’m sure most of you have been to Orlando as it’s one of the top travel destinations int the world. If you’ve been, you also know that it’s a very congested city due to all the attractions. And while Orlando International (MCO) is very well designed, it still doesn’t mean short lines and short waits for the average traveler. Our flight was an early one on this Sunday morning and while expected a crowd, I thought our pre-dawn departure would spare us slightly. Well, I was clearly surprised.

We approached the United ticketing counters to check one of our large bags at 5:00 AM. There were a minimum of 150-200 folks in line for United ticketing. Guess how many were in line at Premier Access? Two. Our bag was promptly checked in 2 minutes and we were on our way to security. Our next perk wasn’t directly related to airline status but to our Global Entry enrollment with the additional perk of TSA Precheck. That previous line at ticketing almost seemed like a breeze when we approached the TSA lines. There must have been 400-500 people in line, routing through ONE main queue line! Orlando’s has one central terminal with an “A” and “B” ticketing side. The PreCheck side is closer to “A” but we approached from “B” and both sides use the same TSA lines. We hurried over to the PreCheck side and were delighted when we only found 3 people in line for PreCheck! We were on our way to the concourse tram in just a couple of minutes and we easily avoided spending 45 minutes+ in line for TSA.

We skirted off for a quick coffee and onto our gate. We had plenty of time to move at our leisure thanks to our previous perks. We would have been far more rushed had we not had those perks. And to top it all off, we were upgraded to First on our IAH bound flight!

20140712-095525-35725236.jpg

Of course, this journey was an example of things going very much in our favor due to Elite status. However, the day wasn’t perfect as United did leave my checked bag behind in IAH and it was delayed. However, they did deliver it to my house just a few hours later. There were a few factors that did help make our experience even easier:

  • We were departing early on a Sunday morning
  • Orlando on a weekend means very few business travelers
  • Orlando is not a United hub/focus city, equaling small number of Elite travelers
  • Low time and day for Elite travelers and TSA PreCheck travelers

So for those of you newbie or light travelers who think that Elite status is just a waste of time, re-think about inserting status into your travel and miles strategy. It’s saving a ton in baggage fees alone! And don’t forget to do you research on status matches, it doesn’t hurt to politely ask!

 

5.3 CPM – Delta – #MileageRun – MCO to SAN – Weekend – June 6 to June 9 – $290 R/T

Departure Date: June 6 , 2014

Return Date: June 9, 2014

Airline: Delta

CPM: 5.3 CPM

Total Base Mileage Earned: 5,547 miles

Routing: Nonstop, MCO-MSP-SAN-CVG-MCO

Total Roundtrip Fare: $290

 

jun6mco-san

 

A great weekend transcontinental fare between two holiday destinations, Orlando and San Diego. Various dates available in early June. Available in reverse direction the last week of May on Alaska for $298.

6.9 CPM – Alaska – #FlightDeal – SAN to MCO – Weekend – May 29 to May 30,31 – $298 R/T

Departure Date: May 29, 2014

Return Date: May 30 or 31, 2014

Airline: Alaska

CPM: 6.9 CPM

Total Base Mileage Earned: 4,286 miles

Routing: Nonstop, SAN-MCO-SAN

Total Roundtrip Fare: $298

 

 

may29san-mco

A great weekday transcontinental fare between two holiday destinations, San Diego and Orlando. Available in the reverse direction on Delta for $290, connecting through Atlanta in early June.