Since the TSA doesn’t actually catch prohibited items going through security checkpoints with any regularity, there are worries that pushing people through PreCheck lanes that haven’t been pre-vetted is problematic. (Although these worries require you to believe that regular security is more likely to catch problems.)
So the TSA has scaled back ‘managed inclusion’ so that TSA employees no longer pick people out of line to send them through PreCheck. Instead, only TSA dogs (as interpreted by TSA employees) do so.
There are fewer people going through the PreCheck lanes than a year ago as a result, and so the TSA has scaled back PreCheck hours at some airports.
The share of overall capacity dedicated to PreCheck fell to 22% in November from 26% a year earlier, according to Mr. Hoggan. The number of PreCheck lanes hasn’t been reduced, but the hours they are open has been cut.
But just because PreCheck is closed doesn’t mean you’re out of luck for expedited screening.
When I flew Southwest last month the TSA PreCheck lane was closed, even though I arrived slightly before 6 and the line supposedly stays open until 6.
I’ve been to several airports that don’t have PreCheck this year, like Mobile, Alabama and Yakima, Washington.
And when PreCheck isn’t available, I still get ‘PreCheck light’. Screeners refer to it as ‘Expedited’ screening, but that moniker can be confusing since the TSA refers to PreCheck itself as expedited.
- You keep your shoes on
- Your Freedom Baggie of liquids stay in your bag (but honestly, they do anyway, I don’t remember the last time I saw a screener insist you take your liquids out of the bag)
- Your laptop is still supposed to come out of your bag
- You go through the metal detector, not the nude-o-scope
I still use a laptop bag that’s “TSA Approved” and so I just have to unclip the bag rather than taking the laptop out.
So use the priority queue, leave your shoes on, the only thing you still have to do is take your laptop out.
If you aren’t told about this, ask. Your boarding pass may be highlighted, or you may be given a special card to carry through the checkpoint. In some smaller airports the document checker may just tell the screener you’re expedited.