Last updated: 12:29 PM ET, Thu March 31 2016

Will TSA PreCheck's Underwhelming Popularity Lead to Airport Congestion Nightmares?

Impacting Travel | Donald Wood | March 31, 2016

Will TSA PreCheck's Underwhelming Popularity Lead to Airport Congestion Nightmares?

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The Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck program was instituted to make traveling easier, but with far less people using the service than expected, there are concerns over airport congestion this summer.

According to The Associated Press, the TSA has cut its security screener workforce by 10 percent over the last three years in anticipation of the success of PreCheck, but there are simply not enough people signing up.

TSA officials expect record numbers of passengers entering airports in the United States this summer, and there are concerns that the overload of people and lack of employees will cause major congestion at security checkpoints.

READ MORE: TSA Pre: The Best $85 You'll Ever Spend on Travel

The PreCheck program was supposed to help speed up the security process by pre-screening frequent fliers and approving them for a quicker screening that involved people walking through standard metal detectors instead of the explosive-detecting, full-body scanners most travelers must pass through.

In theory, the PreCheck security process could screen 300 passengers an hour, making the option twice as fast as going through standard security. While the TSA initially announced its goal as 25 million people enrolled in the program, there are only 9.3 million travelers signed up, as of March 1.

With the goal of 25 million people in mind, the TSA cut its work force from 47,147 to 42,525 over the last three years, while the number of travelers flying each year has jumped from 643 million to more than 700 million.

It’s not like people aren’t signing up, though, as an estimated 250,000 to 300,000 customers join PreCheck each month, but reports suggest it would take three-to-four more years to reach the TSA’s original goals.

The TSA has also tried to make changes to the PreCheck policy, but have failed during several inspector general reports that shed light on the issues with the program. Once again, the standard security lines began to grow in length while the PreCheck lines were almost abandoned at times.

READ MORE: TSA Mandating Body Scans for Selected Travelers

Problems are already starting to rear their head, as 6,800 American Airlines passengers missed their flights during Spring Break 2016 due to long checkpoint lines, according to the AP. The problem now is that the TSA knows there is nothing it can do but send more workers to the busiest airports in preparation of the summer rush.

The congestion at major airports is likely to get worse before it ever gets better.


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