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IDEMIA, the exclusive provider for the program, has announced that they are increasing the number of locations where TSA PreCheck enrollment can take place. Where, you might ask? Look for as enrollment center at a Staples store near you.
Well…not at every Staples store. IDEMIA is selecting about 50 stores across the country where they will process new applications for PreCheck. The company also plans to set up mobile RV centers (in addition to two it already has) that will travel each coast signing up new applicants. Pop up enrollment locations will also be coming to places like Penn Station and San Francisco 49er games.
All that sounds nice…but what effect will this have on the quality of PreCheck?
Why loads of new PreCheck sign-ups isn’t a good thing
IDEMIA is in the business of signing people up. They don’t actually administer the program. The program is only as good as the TSA agents make it.
If the number of people with TSA pre-check keeps increasing, the service will suffer. PreCheck is meant for frequent travelers, to save them some time and hassle when passing through airport security. However, I already have seen instances when the PreCheck line is just as long (or one one case, longer) than the peon line. Wait…it’s not actually called that, is it?
Currently, 2 out of every 10 air travelers is enrolled in TSA PreCheck. The CEO of IDEMIA asserts that the program can still sign up many more passengers without sacrificing benefits. I’m a bit skeptical of this. If a large number of travelers end up enrolling in TSA pre-check, will the normal line become the better one to choose?
DEMIA asserts that most PreCheck users spend less than 5 minutes in the security line. That seems great. But what if a load of new sign-ups makes it 10?
PreCheck is already saturated and/or not a huge benefit
Honestly, I have only encountered one situation where pre-check would have been immensely helpful. This was at Orlando International Airport when I was headed home from Family Travel 4 Real Life 6 last year. There were loads of people, many of whom obviously didn’t fly much, which makes sense, given the destination. The normal line crawled while the PreCheck line was virtually empty.
In most other instances, PreCheck would save me maybe a couple minutes. Granted, it would be nice to not have to take my shoes off or pull my electronics out, but my bag setup is such that this doesn’t require much effort.
I’m sure other people have a better idea about PreCheck’s usefulness than I do (let me know in the comments). The wait for most security lines I’ve been through over the past couple years has been less than 5 minutes. But I do have to admit that I have flown a lot out of tiny regional airports where security is never long. In any case, I’ll soon get to experience it for myself as I finally completed my Global Entry interview.
What about CLEAR?
The new CLEAR system is a good option for frequent travelers if your airport has it. I would just never pay the membership fee unless I flew literally on a weekly basis. The fee is steep, at $15 per month, although you can get a discount on this via multiple avenues.
Clear has the potential to be even faster than TSA PreCheck, as it gets you around the line for ID verification. But it comes at an added cost. Clear has sometimes offered free trial periods, so make sure to test it before deciding if the service is right for you.
From my observation far fewer people are using Clear than TSA PreCheck.
While it’s cool that TSA PreCheck enrollment at a Staples store may become a thing, I argue against it for two reasons: first, it has the potential to reduce the benefits of the program for other users, and second, you should be using your credit card credit for Global Entry anyway instead of paying for just PreCheck.
What are your thoughts on IDEMIA trying to get higher enrollment in TSA PreCheck?
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