She didn’t have TSA PreCheck — this is what happened next

Why did she get into the line for TSA PreCheck?

Lara MacLean contacted our advocacy team with an angry tale of her recent ejection from the TSA PreCheck line at the airport in Fort Myers. But she doesn’t have TSA PreCheck approval, nor did she get a random invitation to join this line. So why did she get on it in the first place?

Maclean’s case is a lesson in airport etiquette and the importance of understanding the rules and protocols associated with the various security lines maintained by the Transportation Security Administration.Stay out of the TSA PreCheck line if you aren't invited

Hopping on the line for TSA PreCheck

“Both of my teenagers got TSA PreCheck stamped on their airline tickets, but I did not,” MacLean recalled. “The regular security line at Ft Myers was so long before we could even see the TSA PreCheck line. Once we saw where it was, we left the regular line and got in that line.”

MacLean says that an American Airlines agent told her that because her children (ages 13 and 16) had randomly received the TSA PreCheck stamp, she could also use this invitation-only security line.

Not true. But we’ll get back to that in a moment.

When she reached the front of the TSA PreCheck line, the agents let her know that she wasn’t going to be allowed through to the other side.

“I had sent my children through the TSA PreCheck line first,” MacLean reported. “But when I tried to follow them, the agent yelled at me. She said I wasn’t a TSA PreCheck customer.”

Ejection from the TSA PreCheck line

Despite her pleas to follow her teenagers, the security agents would not permit it. They redirected her to the regular line to join all the other passengers without TSA PreCheck approval.

And to add insult to injury, after MacLean found some sympathetic travelers in the regular line who allowed her to step ahead of them, an agent quickly swooped in. He told her that line jumping also was not permitted.

“The TSA agent asked me if I never had schooling. She said there’s no cutting in line,” MacLean recalled. “Then she asked me why I thought I was more important than the hundred people behind me. Some guy yelled ‘let her the f*** through’. And people started clapping. Then I was accused of starting a riot.”

There’s more, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll jump to the end of this saga.

MacLean’s security line troubles ended just in time for her to catch her flight. In her letter to our advocacy team, she asked that we advocate with the TSA so that parents should always get to go through the precheck line if their children get the random stamp.

Who can get in the line for TSA PreCheck?

Of course, airlines and the TSA should not force parents and children to use separate security lines at the airport. But it would appear that MacLean misunderstood the random TSA PreCheck stamp on her teenagers’ tickets and what it permitted.

The Transportation Security Administration maintains the TSA PreCheck security lines for prescreened travelers at airports throughout the United States. The agency touts the program as an excellent way for travelers to save “time and stress.”

 

Keep moving. TSA Pre✓® saves you time and stress.
With a 5 year, $85 membership, you can speed through security and don’t need to remove your:
shoes, laptops, liquids, belts and light jackets.

Of course, as MacLean discovered, it’s also a great way to add time and stress to your travels if you hop in that line uninvited.

Applicants for TSA PreCheck are required to be fingerprinted and participate in a 10-minute interview at an enrollment center. After approval, those travelers can consistently enjoy all the benefits of the program.

But MacLean has never applied for TSA PreCheck. Nor had her children. So how did they end up with the stamp on their boarding passes?

Random TSA PreCheck assignment

My colleague Michelle Bell recently explained random TSA PreCheck assignments in her article on this topic. She points out that the Transportation Security Authority continues to grant random stamps to some passengers who have been deemed to be low-risk travelers. Like two teenagers.

However, many official TSA PreCheck passengers have expressed great dismay with the practice of providing random travelers with free access to this line.

Some frustrated travelers who qualify for this perk are choosing not to use that line at all. Our publisher, Christopher Elliott, has recently written about passengers finding the TSA PreCheck lines as long as, or even longer than, the regular security lines.

So something is a bit broken in the current TSA PreCheck program. The agency may be issuing too many random PreCheck stamps or the resources for this program have not kept pace with the number of travelers officially approved.

What can a family do when one member gets a random stamp?

Families who discover one or more members have been granted a random TSA PreCheck stamp will need to decide if they wish to separate during the security process. One random stamp does not grant the designation to the rest of the group.

The Transportation Security Administration clarifies on its website:

I am traveling with my family; can they also use the TSA Pre✓® lane?

Children ages 12 and younger may use the TSA Pre✓® lane when traveling with a parent or guardian who has the indicator on their boarding pass. Travelers 13 and older who do not have a TSA Pre✓® boarding pass must go through standard security lanes or apply. Before applying, TSA recommends reviewing the various DHS trusted traveler programs, such as the TSA Pre✓® Application Program, Global Entry, NEXUS, and SENTRI, to determine the best program for your family.

Before entering the security screening area, there is typically a TSA agent directing passengers to the correct line. In MacLean’s situation, a quick check with that employee could have provided all the clarification that she needed. At that time, she could have chosen for the entire family to remain in the regular security line so as not to be separated from her children.

The Opposite of TSA PreCheck

In case you are wondering, there is also an opposite to the TSA PreCheck stamp.

The agency can randomly pick you for the Secondary Security Screening Selection (SSSS) The SSSS stamp on your boarding pass will require you to spend extra time with the security agents.

The bottom line

Travelers who believe that TSA agents have treated them poorly can use our contacts to make their concerns known. Alternatively, an official complaint can be registered directly with the Department of Homeland Security’s Travelers Redress Program. (DHS TRIP)

The bottom line: If you don’t have approval to be in an invitation-only security line, you probably shouldn’t get in it.

Should these TSA agents just have allowed MacLean to use the TSA PreCheck line?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Underwritten by

Underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

Underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

Underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Underwritten by Enterprise

A family-owned, world-class portfolio of brands. A global network that spans across more than 85 countries. Some 97,000 dedicated team members sharing common values. And more than 1.9 million vehicles taking our customers wherever they need to go.

Underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Underwritten by InsureMyTrip

It’s simple. InsureMyTrip finds you the right travel insurance plan, every time. InsureMyTrip is the authority on travel insurance. Rated A+ for travel insurance by the Better Business Bureau. All travelers that purchase a policy through  InsureMyTrip have access to Anytime Advocates® for claims assistance.

Underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Underwritten by SCOTTeVEST

An innovative apparel brand for people who want easy access to everything they need. For those who live for every second, SCOTTeVEST lets you maximize your life. Ditch the carry-on bag and pick up a  SCOTTeVEST.

Underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Underwritten by Sungard Availability Services

Leveraging more than 35 years of experience, Sungard AS designs, builds and runs critical IT services that help businesses manage complex IT, adapt quickly and build resiliency and availability. A leading provider of critical production and recovery services, Sungard AS partners with customers across the globe, delivering resilient IT systems, infrastructure and recovery services tailored to achieving desired business outcomes.

Underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.