This is one of my latest experiences with the TSA. All air-travelers have to deal with the TSA but I guess nobody likes them. There is now TSA Pre-Check which is supposed to speed up the screening process. You can sign up for TSA Pre or get it through your Global Entry application. Either way, you have to do an interview with a TSA agent and undergo a background check.
I have my TSA Pre status now for over two years and had another interesting experience with TSA. So after that incident, I talked to another TSA agent at a different airport, because I had some time and I was the only one in line.
To use TSA Pre-check, you have to sign up for it and get approved, after that you have to provide your Known Traveler Number (KTN) during your reservation of the airline ticket. You can do that even last minute right at check-in. The airline (if participating in TSA Pre-check) will now print you a boarding pass which has the TSA Pre logo on it or some kind of visual confirmation that you are eligible to use TSA Pre. I always thought this is just an indicator for the agent at the beginning of the line to send people without Pre-check to the right security checkpoint lines, as he or she doesn’t scan your boarding pass and just checks for that logo. Now the agent just before the x-ray machine will scan your ticket and confirm your ID. The agent can see, by scanning that you are pre-check but won’t let you access the facilities if there is no sticker on it.
So what happened?
I was flying in from Europe and as TSA Pre-check is a US-based only program, I didn’t get the TSA Pre-Check logo printed on the boarding pass as my first leg was not on a US airline. However, by accessing the American Airlines First Class lounge in London Heathrow, the airline agent there was able to re-print my boarding pass. Unfortunately, it only worked from the leg from London to Los Angeles but not from Los Angeles to Seattle, where I would be actually able to use TSA Pre.
So as I stood in line, I asked the agent, scanning the boarding passes and verifying ID if they have a pre-check lane. She told me it’s in the other terminal but told the other guests in front of me that they can go through the metal detector instead of the x-ray. I showed the agent my previous boarding pass and the one for the upcoming flight and they denied me to just use the metal detector. They told me I was pre-check on my previous leg, but I am not on this leg. As this whole trip is booked under the same booking number, pre-check would transfer automatically. It’s even more interesting that TSA believes they have a pre-check lane at London Heathrow, which they don’t have. Even tho, my time was short, I asked them to give me back my belongings and I will just go to the terminal instead of this transit checkpoint with endless longlines. They were not very cooperative.
Another problem was that American Airlines mobile boarding pass wouldn’t show because I checked in abroad. Otherwise, the app would show my status too. American Airlines is working on this issue and hopefully, it gets fixed soon.
What to do next time!
If you ever have an inbound flight from outside the US and have to connect. Try to go somewhere and re-print your boarding pass to make sure it shows the TSA Pre-check symbol on it. That’s all they care about, even so, the ticket scans positive, you won’t be allowed to use it. Makes sense? No?! Welcome to the world of TSA!
You can try to go to a lounge of an U.S.-based airline if you fly with them or try to reprint it at a service desk once you get to the US. It also depends on how busy the security checkpoints are. You can assume that they are always long at LAX, but other airports may have a significantly shorter line. In my case, I just like to leave all my laptops int he bag, keep on my shoes and especially don’t have to go through the x-ray machine.
What is your take on that?