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TSA to Flyers: Say Goodbye to Free Speedy Security Lines

According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in an interview last week, the pie-in-the-sky days of free PreCheck lines are past.

TSA spokesman John S. Pistole told the New York Times that around 45 percent of all flyers receive PreCheck or some other form of expedited-screening service at the airport—even if they haven't paid for it. But that soon may change, as the PreCheck program has met enrollment goals, proved it can handle high passenger volume, and now hopes to again reserve the service for paying customers only.

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Currently, even non-PreCheck flyers have randomly had access to the PreCheck security lines, which means smooth sailing through metal detectors with shoes on and liquids still stowed in carry-on bags. But allowing non-paying customers has had some unintended consequences: the Times reports that passengers who are selected for PreCheck often are unaware of the simpler security procedures and continue to remove jackets, shoes, electronics, and liquids as if they were part of the normal security queue. Other flyers have reported long PreCheck lines, as the sheer volume of PreCheck passengers (paid and unpaid) approached the number at the regular checkpoints. (A recent article in the Wall Street Journal reported on the sometimes-clogged PreCheck lines.)

In addition to causing traffic jams at security checkpoints, free PreCheck rides are also costing the TSA revenue.

Says Pistole, "We'll start pulling back on the number of people who we include on a random, managed-inclusion basis, because we want to, frankly, cater to those who have actually signed up." And who have ponied up the $85 enrollment fee.

The program already has around 440,000 enrollees who have passed the PreCheck requirements, including an online application and an in-person interview complete with fingerprint collection. Once enrolled, PreCheck flyers are assigned a Known Traveler Number, which is added to their flight bookings, and gains them entrance to PreCheck security lanes at some 26 airports.

Since the program debuted, it had been received favorably by those looking to speed through security, but lower-than-desired enrollment numbers had been a concern for the TSA. Until now.

Readers, do you think the TSA PreCheck program is worth the fee? Planning on signing up?

(Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

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