TSA Pre Precheck Program for frequent flyers

TSA is rolling out their “pre” program this fall at Dulles IAD and  Indianapolis  IND Airports.   The pre check allows frequent flyers to board somewhat more easily than “regular” flyers.    However the enrollment fee of $85 and fingerprinting hassles mean that for most flyers this may not be worth the trouble and cost.    Obviously frequent travelers may find this worthwhile however, and the $85 is over 5 years and therefore represents a very small annualized cost.

It’ll be hard to tell the time savings until details are finalized because the number of dedicated screening lines for “pre” passengers may determine how much time this process will save.   Time is money, so the $85  fee will be well worth it to frequent business travelers if they can save many hours in waiting over the course of their enrollment.

Here’s more about the “Pre” Precheck program from the TSA Website:

TSA Pre✓™ allows select frequent flyers of participating airlines and members of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Trusted Traveler programs who are flying on participating airlines, to receive expedited screening benefits. Eligible participants use dedicated screening lanes for screening benefits which include leaving on shoes, light outerwear and belts, as well as leaving laptops and 3-1-1 compliant liquids in carry-on bags.

TSA Pre✓™ Application Process

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is announcing plans to implement a TSA Pre✓™ application process. The TSA Pre✓™ fee-based application process will allow U.S. citizens the opportunity to apply for expedited screening without a passport.

When available, the application will be a two-step process:

  1. Fill out an online application.

  2. Verify identity and provide fingerprints at a TSA Pre✓™ enrollment center.

Applicants may pay the anticipated $85 enrollment fee online, or at an enrollment center. There is a five-year term of eligibility, after which members will need to re-apply. TSA expects the vetting process to take approximately 2-3 weeks. A U.S. passport is not required to enroll. The first two enrollment locations, Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) and Indianapolis International Airport (IND), will open in fall 2013 with plans to expand to additional enrollment sites nationwide.


Rick Steves on Rethinking the Massive Cost of Airport Security

the moral of the TSA story is that our safety is coming at a cost that may not be sustainable

Great post today on Facebook by Rick Steves about how we need to do a rational job of assigning costs and benefits to our Airport Security apparatus.   Although I agree with him I think a lot of the blame is with … those of us who continue to irrationally fear terrorism more than the *hundreds* of other greater risks around us, many of which we could mitigate very cheaply.   For example a smoker is creating fairly substantial death risk for themselves, and could live longer simply by spending *less* on smoking.   In other areas like auto accidents (which kill hundreds of times the number of people killed in terror incidents), we could simply make sure more people buckle up and fewer drive drunk.   The cost of these measures is trivial but the lives saved would be vastly more than we save with our TSA security measures.

Of course a challenge Rick is not addressing is that the irrationality many of us apply to this topic means that if we DO have terror incidents it will discourage many from flying at all.   This irrational result means that it might actually be good policy to provide more anti-terror measures than you would apply in a more rational world, because people’s fear might wind up creating large scale problems with the global transportation system.   Thus we might need to spend billions more than is rational in order to prevent losing tens of billions from irrational economic decisions.

Still, the moral of the TSA story is that our safety is coming at a cost that may not be sustainable.   Therefore we should start educating the public to be more rational in how they assign risk and reward, and start working towards sustainable safety spending rather than excessive and irrational political spending programs.

Rick Steves on Facebook:
I’ve been through a lot of airports lately, and I have to say, when people joke about TSA meaning “thousands standing around,” it has a ring of truth. In November, Bloomberg Businessweek reported that we spend about $8 billion a year on scanning machines, all that time-consuming checking, and employing those people who stand between us and our departure gate. And that cost doesn’t even consider the valuable time wasted by travelers who need to allot extra time to cover surprise delays at airport security.

 Sure, we need to spend some money and time on security. But does anyone in government have the nerve to raise their hand and ask, “Could we lighten up here a bit?” or even “Aren’t we going a bit overboard there?” Bloomberg Businessweek reports that entire years go by (such as 2011) when TSA doesn’t spot a single terrorist trying to board an airplane. And then there’s s this staggering statistic: “In fact, extremist Islamic terrorism resulted in just 200 to 400 annual deaths worldwide, outside the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq — the same number…that occur in bathtubs in the US each year.”


Following 9/11, there was, understandably, a push to strengthen our airport security measures. But these efforts may be costing us even more lives. According to Cornell University researchers cited in Bloomberg Businessweek, after 9/11, frightened travelers switching from flights to drives resulted in over 200 more traffic fatalities every month. In the long term, due to security hassles, about 5 percent fewer people fly than used to, resulting in even more road fatalities. In other words, far more people have died on the road as an indirect result of 9/11 than actually died on 9/11.


Maybe it’s time to come to grips with the risk of terrorism and finally put it in a rational perspective. Many will say, “If TSA and all the security saves just one life, it will be worth it.” The way I see it, wasting money wastes lives. Intimidating people into driving instead of flying wastes lives. A nation can reach a point where its passion for showboat security designed to make people feel safe actually kills them. Security is good, but a cost-benefit awareness is simply smart. What do you think?

New Laptop battery rules for flights – do not put them in checked luggage!

Yes, it’s true – there are even more new complicated rules from the TSA. It’s not even clear this relates to any terror issues but they are restricting lithium batteries in carry on luggage:

New Laptop Battery Rules from TSA

If you’ll be travelling by air in 2008 be sure to review the new rules for carrying batteries on airplanes. The new battery rules are here at TSA’s websiteOn new rule is that you are NOT allowed to pack lithium batteries in your *checked* luggage, though you *are* allowed to have them in carry on baggage in clear plastic bags.It’s also a good idea to review the 3-1-1 rule here at TSA:3-1-1 for carry-ons = 3 ounce bottle or less (by volume) ; 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag; 1 bag per passenger placed in screening bin.

Cell phone as boarding pass in Houston Airport

Barbara La Dollis writes about an experiment using cell phones as boarding passes at George Bush Airport in Houston, Texas USA. I think only Continental Airlines is using this right now, but I bet this will catch on fast.

This is a good idea because a cell phone is a very secure, info rich, “intelligent” environment. Most of us guard our phones carefully and report them when missing. The phone could easily contain an extensive amount of additional important information to expedite security and boarding, and ideally the airline could even more easily keep us informed of changes or issues.

Why not extend this to security? I’m sure my phone number and ID are already tagged in some TSA database, so why not pre-screen those who choose to participate as follows?

* Phone company is given permission to give TSA my data.
* I upload a set of photos for the master database. This data is also on the phone.
* At flight check in, internet or bluetooth or even a physical inspection of the phone is matched to the master database, pinpointing me as the travel guy who has been profiled already as “safe”.
* Only those who opt in are profiled, and anyone can opt out of the system once in, and items like credit card data are strictly off limits.

Transportation Security Administration TSA

This is an OLD post.  For the latest on TSA Requirements CLICK HERE for TSA Travel Information


The TSA here in the USA has a very big job. They are charged with protecting the millions of travelers who travel daily in, out, and around the country.

All travelers should spend at least a few minutes getting familiar with security basics here at the TSA “for travelers” web page here. Most important is managing your liquids, toothpaste and other gels using the 3-1-1 rule.

Overall the TSA website suffers from the typical bureaucratic challenges of telling people much more than they need or want to know about the organization while leaving key details about travel too thinly discussed. TSA is a place where it would be very advantageous to have a blog team with access to up to the minute information about delays, lines, airport and airline security information and then post up to the minute on their blog to help travelers with access get around.

An example of “travel inefficiencies” that create lose-lose situations came up Thursday on our trip home from PHL Philadelphia. We wanted to visit the shopping/dining section of PHL because we had several hours to kill, but because of the odd setup at PHL this would have required us to either stand in a HUGE line for D concourse and then find a way to C concourse vs walking in to E (with no line!) which was where we needed to be to leave. I’m sure if I knew the place inside out I could have used the bus system more effectively, but given that PHL so heavily promotes the shopping and dining area you’d think they’d arrange things such that you could easily hang out there without worrying about missing a flight. The discrepancy in line length was odd as well and I’ve seen this very often. TSA seems to use humans where machines would be better and perhaps vica versa. As Thomas Edison pointed out — there is a better way – find it (please…!).

Summer Delays Expected

Many are predicting airline delays this summer as travel heats up and airports are crowded.
The News Observer observes that increasing use of discount airlines for business travel and leisure travel is putting an added strain on existing airport facilities. I think this is a taste of how air travel will change in the future – basically we’ll continue to have relatively cheap cross country and international flights but we’ll see sacrifices in service, quality, on-time flights, and perhaps even safety.

In my opinion flying is actually *way too safe* right now because we spend *way too much* on airline safety and ineffective TSA measures while foregoing cheap life saving tools like more clever enforcements of smoke detector and seatbelt rules, drunk driving rules, etc. Each year only a few thousand people die from air crashes *world wide* while over 35,000 are usually killed on US Highways alone. US Air crashes are extremely rare despite the huge traffic from US air travel.

It’s ironic but true that lower safety standards … will save more lives.

Airport Security – cost effective?

A new “invisible fencing” system will help protect JFK and other New York Airports from Terror Attacks. USA Today has a report on Airport Security.

Here’s the Transportation Security Administration website which today is featuring more about the JFK Terror plot.

My view on the subject is different from most in that I’d argue we spend far too much on expensive measures trying to counter terrorism while failing to utilize many basic, cheaper approaches. Whenever the Government spends huge sums – in the case of TSA it will be *hundreds of billions* of dollars in the coming years, you must rationally look at alternatives to that spending to see what you could accomplish elsewhere. As with expensive military programs security is often a bad investment because even if it counters problems it does not add to existing infrastructure or enhance lives directly. Rather this money *protects* lives and infrastructure. Protection is important, but should be balanced against alternatives that would add to the life, liberty, and health equation. How many *extra* lives do you save with an extra $100,000,000,000 for TSA? The answer is unclear due to the potentially catastrophic nature of terror attacks, but it seems to me that we’ll break the bank with current approaches, so we should be finding ways to leverage cheap, automated surveillance, people databases, and other cost effective methods rather than hiring huge numbers of TSA screeners.