Two More Airlines Joining TSA PreCheck – Which Ones May Surprise You

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PreCheck is TSA’s Strategy to Get a Handle on Security Lines

Airport security lines became insufferably long over the past few months. It cost both passengers (who can wait for hours at peak times) and airlines (when passengers miss flights and their seats aren’t used efficiently, plus they have unhappy customers).

While airlines are spending some money on the problem, Delta bought into CLEAR and American is adding staff to improve queues, overall airlines just want the government to spend more or security rather than fixing airport security.

TSA is hiring more screeners, though really should start with redeploying 2800 behavior detection officers to the checkpoint.

TSA had slowed down checkpoints in the aftermath of internal reports that they were missing 95% of contraband passing through screening and said they thought it would be fine because of PreCheck signups. But those signups haven’t been nearly convenient enough, with government contracting disputes holding back expansion.


TSA Agents in Charlotte Watch News of the TSA’s Failure to Detect Weapons and Bombs, Instead of Searching for Weapons and Bombs (HT: Tocqueville)

Anything that grows PreCheck, though, is good for wait times and good for passengers who are able to get out of queues more quickly and without giving a peep show to a TSA employee in a booth.

Two More US Airlines Joining PreCheck

Both Spirit and Frontier are going to be getting set up with PreCheck in the coming months.

Denver-based Frontier Airlines now says it plans to participate in PreCheck by the end of August, while Miramar, Fla.-based Spirit Airlines is planning to join sometime this fall.

Frontier and Spirit will join existing PreCheck-participating airlines:

  • Aeromexico
  • Air Canada
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Allegiant
  • American Airlines
  • Cape Air
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Etihad Airways
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • JetBlue Airways
  • Seaborne Airlines
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Sun Country Airlines
  • United Airlines
  • Virgin America
  • WestJet

Spirit and Frontier have been holdouts among US airlines because of the IT investment necessary to integrate with TSA for PreCheck. They make money by not making any investments which are unrelated to inflight safety or which they cannot monetize.

I haven’t seen any explanation of why now for these two airlines linking up with TSA. And I haven’t seen any explanation of why both are doing it at the same time. I can think of two possibilities.

  1. Perhaps there are new financial incentives (subsidies) to get to near-universal participation among US airlines. It might be worth a FOIA request to TSA.

  2. Spirit and Frontier are finding passengers booking away from them as a result of their lack of participation in PreCheck.

There are 6 reasons that United, Delta, and American are better than the ultra low cost carriers when price is the same.

One of those reasons is that the legacy airlines participate in TSA PreCheck while Spirit and Frontier do not — so flying the ultra low cost carriers means longer waits at TSA and a more intrusive checkpoint experience (nude-o-scopes!). Joining PreCheck eliminates this reason.

Getting PreCheck and Expedited Immigration

Global Entry is fantastic skipping the immigration and customs queues when you return to the U.S.

I didn’t love the fingerprinting or background check that went along with it, but I figured all my cell phone data was being logged anyway long before Edward Snowden was cool. So if the surveillance was inevitable I figured I might as well at least get the convenience.

Now that I have it, it’s hard to imagine life without it — and not just queuing up at immigration, but also that I always get PreCheck at TSA now rather than having it be hit-or-miss through my airline elite status.

Signing up for PreCheck just gets you expedited airport security ($85). Signing up for Global Entry gets you expedited immigration and PreCheck ($100). Nexus gets you the benefits of Global Entry and PreCheck and also gets you expedited immigration into Canada and is the cheapest ($50). All three last 5 years.

It makes virtually no sense to me to get just PreCheck, Global Entry makes the most sense for many people because many credit cards will rebate the signup cost — for instance the Platinum Card by American Express, Citi Prestige, and Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard.

Maintaining Global Entry and PreCheck

Once you have it you don’t want to lose it. When coming into the country be sure to declare chocolates, candy bars, chips, or any various items of sustenance whether open or closed, for personal consumption at the airport or meant as gifts. Even if it’s just chocolates off of your flight.

And be sure to keep your profile up to date for instance if you get a new passport.

Expedited Screening Even When PreCheck Lanes are Closed

Whenever I’m at an airport which doesn’t offer PreCheck, or PreCheck lanes are closed (like in Philadelphia at 6pm or Miami just because), I still get expedited screening.

  • 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.


Playmobil Security Playset

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. If all you have is a sealed chocolate bar, and you check yes to the ‘food, plants, insects’ etc question, do you automatically get sent to secondary screening. If so, it seems like that might negate the value of having GE in the first place.

  2. This post is longer than a TSA security line, except when you get to the end of it there are no planes, just a grimy salesman trying to make you sign up for credit cards.

    Clickbait title – 7/10 (I’ve seen better from you. C’mon!)
    Content – 4/10
    Segue into referral links – 6/10

    It’s Sunday so I’ll let this one pass, Gary!

  3. Flying Frontier Friday morning for the first time in over ten years. As a Global Entry participant, is there any reason I couldn’t buy a refundable AA ticket for a Friday afternoon flight, check in and go through security with that pre-check boarding pass, and then cancel the flight before boarding the Frontier plane?

  4. @David you are always so sweet in the comments. You don’t like anything it seems, at least you’ve only shared slings and arrows, but if it makes you feel better to do that than I guess I’ve added value. I’ll take your continued comments as indication I’ve made your day better, and thank you for letting me know!

  5. Do any frequent overseas flyers NOT have Global Entry? Are they NOT scrupulous about declaring what they are bringing in from the foreign trip? There is no harm in this.

    Our last 3 — non-business — trips home from Europe and Chile resulted in an immediate right turn, away from planeloads of other folks at US immigration, a minute at the machines, and then a “hi, how are you” waive through customs.

  6. I’ve specifically avoided flying Frontier the last two flights out of O’Hare because of their lack of participation in Pre-check. I told them this through email and Facebook. I think they really are losing business because of this and they realize it.

  7. Gary, the reason why is IT-related. Both airlines use Navitaire which simply could not handle syncing up with the TSA system. The update goes live in July but Spirit is holding out longer because it’s peak travel period and they’re afraid the update might bring down the reservation systems.

    The two possibilties you speculated are incorrect.

  8. I think a lot of people are just signing up for pre check because the wait time for an appointment is far less than the Global Entry interviews. Many airports have several months before there’s an opening.

  9. Air Canada does not use Navitaire for ticketing and reservations. They have their own in-house IT which is why they have the most problems out of all the North American legacies.

    IT costs are cost-related, sure, but this one is outside their control. JetBlue switched from Navitaire to SABRE and it was a 100% gong show. They filed a lawsuit if I recall. But hey, TSA Precheck, right?

  10. Global entry with TSA pre-check is the best traveling money I have ever spent and I remind myself of that every time I board a plane or return to the USA. Thanks, Gary, for all the great news you provide and the best advice on how to use it .

  11. This is a BOGUS article. I flew on SPIRIT from Chicago to Austin & return in May 2017 using TSA Preck.

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