How can TSA precheck lose its essential meaning?

If I print my boarding pass at home and I have a TSA precheck notification, I’m apparently acknowledged as being less of a threat and I can go through a quicker, less demanding screening. So why is it that the next time I fly, I may not get the TSA precheck? I didn’t suddenly become more of a threat. Why can’t people keep this approval once it’s given? TSA is no help in answering this basic question. Do any dopers know the actual reason?

They’re switching to a paid service that requires you to go to a local security office, get fingerprinted, pay a fee, and then wait for your clearance. Then you get a letter that has a security code that you can enter when you buy your online ticket, which will have the pre-check symbol on it. Short answer: they’re phasing out the randomness.

Only some airlines/airports even offer a TSA pre-check program. One possibility is that you’ve chosen an airline or airport that does not offer one…

Another possibility is that TSA has started assigning certain passengers Pre-check status. It’s unclear whether this is to lighten the lines at security checkpoints, to encourage people to try the program and thus possibly buy into it, both, or some third reason known only to TSA. TSA, for good reasons, doesn’t go into how it assigns pre-check status.
So I guess the question is: did you get the pre-check status because you went in, got the background check, and paid for it? Or did you get the pre-check status because you were assigned it for unclear reasons?

If you are signed up for one of the supplemental screening programs that includes Pre-Check (Global Entry, NEXUS, etc.) then you should get Pre-check every time.

If you are among the lucky traveling public who gets occasionally randomly selected for Pre-check, there’s no way to know whether you’ll get it next time. It’s done by the airlines in concert with standard promulgated by the TSA, and they may have only a certain number of Pre-check slots available each day, or the standards may change over time, or you may just be unlucky.

If you travel a lot, sign up for Global Entry, even if you don’t go out of the country often.

Nitpick, not “every time.” They have a random (but thankfully rare) “not this time” for precheck people.

Yes, we were assigned Precheck at random. But that doesn’t obviate the clear paradox in losing that clearance the next time we travel. The Precheck obviously means nothing if it can be assigned at random. At least if there were some relatively rational algorithm that assigns them (age, frequency of travel, non-cash purchase, etc.) then it should stay with the person from that point on. Otherwise, it means nothing.

TSA in concert with the airlines have been randomly giving out Pre-Check status air passengers to let them see the benefits of being certified as Pre-Check (keep shoes on, keep jacket on, leave your liquids in your bag, leave your laptop in your bag, shorter line than standard security check). They were hoping to have at least 25 million signed up for their Pre-Check program by the end of this year. So far they have only about 7 million passengers enrolled. This in connection with their high turnover rate of inspection employees and low retention rates, is resulting in the Yuuuugggge lines we are seeing all over the country.

No it was intended as an enticement to get you to through the full screening process and to collect a fee from you, so you could keep the status.

My gf travels a bit for work, and her employers paid the fee to have her investigated for TSA prechecked status. Ever since she had this done, I’ve received precheck status, even when traveling solo.

At first it freaked me out a bit (I even started a thread about it). I’ve come to accept it though.

That may be its intention, but clearly, if people can just get the Precheck at random, then the regular screening is exposed as a scam. That goddamned shoe-bomber is the one who started this thing. God knows what we’d be going through if he had stuck a bomb up his ass.

It’s taken you almost 15 years to figure this out?

FWIW, I’ve taken close to 100 flights since signing up for Global Entry, and never not gotten pre-Check.

I’m sure it happens, though. There’s never any predicting those fickle TSA people.

You are oddly hung up on this concept of “meaning.” It’s a government program to implement security theater. I’m not sure what you expect it to mean.

It is also perfectly possible for consistent algorithm to return inconsistent results if you are unaware of all the inputs. Like I said earlier, there are a limited number of free pre-Check slots available at each airport on each day. These might be assigned to eligible passengers first-come-first-serve or at random. The algorithm may also change from time to time. Or the algorithm may stay the same but the underlying databases change. This stuff is all constantly in flux.

“It’s a government program to implement security theater.”

I understand full well that’s what it’s about. I’m just suggesting that the way they assign and then abandon the precheck undermines any pretense that there’s something significant in what they’re doing out there.

Apples and oranges. Friedo, you get TSA Pre-check because you have recorded your “known traveler number” with the airline you are making a reservation with. You should get the status 100% of the time.

What Procustus is referring to is that even when you are in the TSA pre-check line, they randomly pick pre-check travelers to go through the full screening or a pat-down, not very often but say 1 in every 200 passenger going through.

If they gave it to you every time, there’s no incentive for you to pay the $89 five year fee.

I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen, either.

There have been a few times when the pre-Check line was closed, though. But only late at night when the regular line is empty, anyway.

So pre-checked status is, like, a contagious disease?

I don’t think you do. The main selling point of Pre-check isn’t a reduction in hassle for taking one’s shoes off. The selling point is shorter lines that move faster. Paying for enrollment in the system accomplishes that goal of less standing in line in the vast majority of cases.

If you think randomly getting Pre-check on some occasions means that the government has determined you to be low risk, so you ought to get it every time, there’s no question you’re missing the point. You’re being enticed to pay a couple hundred dollars to join the program to avoid excessive wait times for future flights.

Happened to me once. And the airport had a precheck line. (Ronald Reagan)

Worse, a contagious STD.:stuck_out_tongue: