Over the years, the queues for TSA PreCheck have quietly been getting longer and longer. That’s shouldn’t be a surprise – PreCheck is like THE WORST kept secret in how to decrease your time in queues at U.S. airports (and one international one). I’m kidding, of course – PreCheck isn’t a secret at all. It’s just that over the years more and more people have heard about this great way to not have to stand on airport queues that can sometimes be over an hour long. So they’ve “taken the plunge,” paid the $85 and gotten PreCheck.
Not very many years ago, the TSA estimated that 99% of travelers with PreCheck had screening wait times of 5 minutes or less on average. In May of 2022, that had been downgraded to 93% of PAX with PreCheck who had waits of 5 minutes or less. Those 6 percentage points may not seem like much, but actually equals millions of travelers in a given month, especially at busier airports at busier times (for example, the PreCheck lines at JFK were 11 minutes at Terminal 4 and 14 minutes at Terminal 5 on the Sunday afternoon of Labor Day Weekend).
Unfortunately, the delays are PreCheck queues are only destined to get worse. Using that “worst kept secret” metaphor, many people who have PreCheck will shout from the rooftops about how wonderful it is, which encourages people they know to get it too (our friends Norman and Samantha just got PreCheck this summer because we told them how much time they could potentially save at their home airport of ATL). But who else is strongly pushing PreCheck nowadays?
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
You might think that’s not a big deal – DHS has always pushed PreCheck. But right now they are PUSHING it. And it seems to be not so much in their typical “You should get PreCheck because it makes your life at airports more convenient” but as a way to siphon off interest in other DHS products – specifically Global Entry, SENTRI, and/or NEXUS.
If you do not travel multiple times per year internationally, we recommend applying for the TSA PreCheck Program. Most TSA PreCheck applicants can schedule an appointment in less than 2 weeks and, if approved, can receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN) in about 3 to 5 days after the appointment.
Global Entry, SENTRI, NEXUS, and FAST are experiencing application processing delays and have limited interview availability. While many applications are quickly reviewed, in some cases the process can take from 6-18 months to complete. Moreover, interview availability in various regions is limited. We encourage applicants to check interview appointment availability at a preferred Enrollment Center before applying. Find an Enrollment Center: Global Entry, SENTRI, NEXUS
Current Global Entry applicants or first time Global Entry applicants whose applications have already been conditionally approved may also participate in our Enrollment on Arrival (EoA) program. No appointment is needed and this option may offer the fastest path to membership approval for individuals with upcoming international travel. Information can be found on the following Website: Find a Global Entry EoA Location
You’re probably aware that U.S. citizens and U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents who have Global Entry, NEXUS and/or SENTRI memberships also get TSA PreCheck as part of their memberships. Unfortunately, Global Entry, SENTRI, NEXUS (and FAST – that one’s for commercial truckers) are backlogged. REALLY backlogged. Like, it can take forever and a day to get an interview for Global Entry (although there are some hacks that could help decrease your wait).
So now DHS is suggesting that if you don’t have plans to travel internationally very much, you may want to consider just getting PreCheck instead, since you’ll get your membership much faster – in weeks, instead of months. Which is great; you’ll get a membership much faster! And the lines for PreCheck will get that much longer that much faster, too. Thanks, DHS! #rolleyes
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I’ve been flying domestically a fair bit lately and have PreCheck because I have Global Entry. I’ve been fortunate enough to get PreCheck on my boarding pass on every flight and the lines were from zero to seven minutes but mostly on the lower end of that scale. If more people getting PreCheck will overall improve things for travelers as a whole, I’m willing to add a minute or two to my short wait.