The Transportation Security Administration has expanded its Pre program to 11 new airlines for a total of 30 participating airlines. This expedited process enables trusted travelers to be screened without removing shoes, laptops, 3-1-1- liquids, belts, or light jackets. Members are pre-screened and pay $85 for five years or $17 a year for this service. The average wait in line for TSA Pre passengers is said to be five minutes.
Some travelers have found themselves with TSA Pre status even though they never applied for or paid for the service. Some years ago, TSA started “managed inclusion programs” for travelers who were thought to be “low risk” or who were vetted by behavior detection officers or canines. These travelers were granted the special status on a per flight basis. There were calls (often from individuals who had paid for TSA Pre) to eliminate the managed inclusion programs. However, managed inclusion cuts the screening times for everyone and can encourage individuals to sign up for TSA Pre. A drop, however, has been reported this year in the number of people selected for managed inclusion. Only about 4 million paying customers are in TSA Pre, far short of TSA’s goal of 25 million people.
TSA wants to provide more customer service and uses both Twitter and Facebook Messenger to answer questions and solve problems for passengers. Many of the questions at @AskTSA are about TSA Pre, but many others are about what items are allowed to be carried onto airlines, particularly medical devices. @AskTSA has received questions about live bees, massage masks, saws, a bucket of Marshmallow Fluff, and fresh-baked pies. The bees, mask, and pies were allowed. The saw was not and the Fluff lost out because it was considered to be a liquid. The program appears to be quite successful – answering 300 to 600 queries a day, more during peak travel times, and quickly solving passenger problems.
CBP also is trying to speed things up at airports by expanding Mobile Passport Control. MPC is an app that expedites a traveler’s arrival into the U.S. Eligible travelers submit passport information and answers to inspection-related questions by smartphone or tablet to CBP before arrival. MPC started as a pilot program in 2014 at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and is now available at 21 airports. This app is free on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store and does not require pre-approval.