Sunday, July 8, 2012

TSA ‘Trusted Travelers’ . . . maybe yes, . . .maybe no

It seemed appropriate to board a plane displaying Disney’s Goofy and Mickey Mouse after our first experience with TSA’s PreCheck ‘Trusted Travelers’ program at SeaTac Airport.

Arizona2012pt1 008

Weeks ago I told you about our application, fee payment and screening (both on paper and in person) and our ultimate acceptance into the United State’s international travelers’ Global Entry program. Global Entry participants automatically qualify for TSA’s Precheck, and its ‘trusted travelers’ faster security lanes (which had just opened at SeaTac when I wrote about the programs).

In fact, our recent introduction to ‘fast track’ on our Alaska Airlines flight to Arizona was so “Goofy"  that I wasn’t even going to tell you about it.  I figured somehow we – or Alaska – had goofed up.
  
Welcome to “Trusted Traveler”


I was the only passenger using the  fast track lane being manned by three TSA agents (who watched me closely) as I sailed through – wearing jacket and shoes, with computer and the quart-sized plastic bag of liquids tucked in the carryon. It went through the x-ray machine, I walked through the metal detector.  One minute max.

Joel, on the other hand, was sent to the slow – take-off-shoes-coats-belt-empty-pockets line – because the TSA agent said his ‘trusted traveler’ number didn’t appear in the boarding pass bar code.  He couldn’t ‘fast track’.  Twenty minutes later after his lane snaked its way through the screening we were off to the gate.

"We must have done something wrong. . ."


Agreeing that we’d done something wrong, Joel talked with Alaska mileage plan representatives who offered some possible reasons that the number which shows clearly on his computer profile didn’t print. Seemed odd, since mine did.

 Mystery solved


It was recent media articles that cleared up the mystery for us.  It wasn’t us.  Others in the program are having the same experiences and what’s more. . .

Arizona2012pt1 008It is supposed to work that way!


You see a  ‘trusted traveler’ really isn’t trusted – not all the time, anyway.

We’d been told there’s always a chance of ‘random and unpredictable security measures’.  And what that means is that a certain number of ‘trusted’ travelers don’t know until their boarding pass is scanned whether they will be allowed to use the ‘fast track’ line or not. 

Good for security but bad for streamlining that process when one of a traveling duo is ‘trusted’ and the other one is not.

Now we read in  the Seattle Times that the TSA is expanding its ‘trusted traveler’ program at SeaTac to allow participation by passengers of other airlines (those who’ve passed the additional background and security screens, that is).

We’ll keep you posted on our future ‘trusted traveler’experiences, but for now taking a road trip in our car, riding an Amtrak train or sailing across Puget Sound on a ferry sounds mighty inviting!

Note:  The TSA PreCheck is a pilot program being tested among a small number of airports and travelers.  By the end of the year it is scheduled to be operating at 35 U.S. airports and involve passengers of six airlines. If you want more information about eligibility and participation visit: www.tsa.gov and for Global Entry www.globalentry.gov.

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