TSA PreCheck Test – Should There Be One To Qualify?

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TSA PreCheck is out of control.  There is a growing need to better qualify the individuals who use TSA PreCheck.  To fix this, I propose a TSA PreCheck test to qualify for eligibility in the program.

TSA PreCheck test

Why Should There Be a PreCheck Test?

The number of approved members of the program is growing.  Thanks to heavy advertising, casual travelers are now paying for the privilege of having TSA PreCheck.  Anyone who can pass the required background check, pay $85, and show up for an in-person interview can gain PreCheck for 5 years.  Many credit card and loyalty programs also offer reimbursements or discounts for enrollment.  As a result, enrollments are up.

Along with the growth of the program has been exponential growth of the PreCheck lines.  According to the TSA, there are now over 5 million TSA PreCheck program members.  On many recent airport trips, the line for PreCheck has been longer than the general security line with fewer machines open.  And yet many of the enrollees have little idea of how to properly utilize the PreCheck line or efficiently get through security without holding up other passengers.

While I have Clear and it works extremely well to get me past the first wave of “bad travelers”, I still often get stuck behind individuals who behave as if they have never visited an airport.  This is why I feel like a test would be helpful to add to the mix.

We require tests for other governmental programs such as driver’s licenses.  I was not allowed to have a driver’s license until I passed an in-person skills test.  And I was not permitted to take the driving skills test until I passed a written review of rules and procedures.  The application process for PreCheck should be no different.

What Would a TSA PreCheck Test Look Like?

I can envision two parts to a TSA PreCheck Test – one focused on rules/mechanics of the program and one focused on security skills.  With the purpose of the program to “speed up” the security process, both of these would focus on eliminating passengers who are likely to provide hold ups.

Rules/Mechanics – a written test

During the initial application, a test of the rules and mechanics of the program could easily be conducted.  Applicants would have to answer basic questions about the program before an application could be approved.  Sample questions could cover topics like “who can I bring with me in the TSA PreCheck line”, “how can I tell if I have been selected for TSA PreCheck on a flight” and “what items should I take out of my bag before putting it through the x-ray machine”.  If you do not know these basics, you do not belong in the program.  Period.

Security Skills – a timed in-person test

The second part of the test would be part of the in-person interview.  An applicant would be required to take a carry on and personal item through the security line.  They would demonstrate that they can correctly and efficiently navigate the security process.  That includes NOT taking out liquids or electronics, emptying pockets, and actually pushing all items through the belt before walking through the scanner.  If an applicant failed to follow a guideline/rule, points would be deducted.  A score below a specific mark would require the applicant to return for another test.  Failing twice could require an applicant to wait 6 months before reapplying.

What Do You Think?  Should There Be a Test to Qualify for TSA PreCheck?

Is this harsh?  I don’t think so.  As the lines continue to grow, they are often slower than the general security line.  The only benefit seems to be the ability to keep shoes on and not take out laptops.  When other passengers follow the rules of the regular security line anyway, that efficiency diminishes.  I long to see the program return to how it was when I was a participant (along with many other top-tier elites) in the original program.  It was a return to the security I remember from pre-9/11 and a restoration of order in the airport world.

How do you feel about the idea of a TSA PreCheck test?  Should there be one?  If so, should it focus only on program knowledge?  Or on security line skills?  Maybe both?  Weigh in with our poll.

Should there be a TSA PreCheck qualifying test?

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About Jennifer Moody

Jennifer is a management consultant and avid volunteer. Her career and volunteer duty travels have helped her log top-tier airline and hotel status annually for the last eighteen years. In addition, she embraces the opportunity to maximize her vacation time by planning extracurricular trips that have taken her to over 60 countries and 48.5 US states. Although she averages 200 days a year on the road, she loves to return to “the homestead” in her native Fort Worth, Texas where she enjoys cooking, gardening, sewing, needlepoint, wine, and cocktail mixology.

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  1. I consistently see shorter waits with precheck, especially at my home airport(DEN) where it often saves me 30 minutes. Occasionally see noobs mixed in but I don’t agree that a test is necessary.

  2. Many smaller airports don’t have a dedicated PreCheck line — like my home airport. The rules seem to change constantly on what has to be removed from carry-ons — CPAP, computer, etc. When we’re at a large airport, we’re never sure of their current rules, and sometimes removing items from our bags is just habit.

    In addition, people with metal hips, knees, or other parts prefer to use the body scanner instead of the x-ray, as it reduces the inevitable pat-down. In that instance, it is necessary to remove jackets and shoes.

    We live in a world full of people with various abilities and disabilities. I too fondly remember the good old days of plane travel. But now, until we can afford private jets, we have to accept the fact that airports require lots of patience, whether getting through security, or using moving sidewalks where people with walking difficulties are standing rather than walking. Or buying coffee behind people who don’t get their money or card ready while they’re waiting in line. What’s with that?

  3. While we all move at the speed of the slowest person. The issues you experience may not be from true PreCheck folks. Many airports push random people into PreCheck for some odd or peak time reasons (I’m not sure). Most of these folks are the clueless ones that don’t know if they should take stuff out or take off shoes. So the real test is the TSA and airlines that play that game in my opinion.

  4. I like your idea…

    But we need MORE… Since flying as a passenger is a luxury, we should have tests for that too!

    Parents who fly with their kids… yes, ANOTHER test!

  5. You’re faster than some people.

    You’re slower than others.

    It’s all fun and games until you “fail” the test created by someone else. Funny how you’d create a test you know you’ll already pass. Pretty much explains the mentality behind this post.

  6. Just stop giving out PreCheck to random people. “Never get behind old people. They don’t value the time they have left.”

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