The TSA gambled on millions of wealthy Americans opting out of its pornoscanner-and-shoe-removal process and signing up for its Precheck policy, which allows travellers to pay for the “privilege” of walking through a metal-detector with their shoes on, while their laptops stay in their bags.
It was a gamble that they lost. Americans have stayed away from the process in droves, but the TSA had already committed to cutting staff in anticipation of much lighter queues at their checkpoints. Instead of lightening, the queues have got longer, as the US economy has recovered and low fuel prices have kept the price of plane tickets down.
The TSA is now warning travelers to expect very long security lines this summer (Denver Airport warns that its TSA queues can take three hours to clear), as it scrambles to train more staff. In the meantime, whole airports’ worth of people are missing their flights, sending the airport managers and airlines into rare public displays of temper against the agency, calling the lines “unacceptable” (American Airlines), a “fiasco” (Brent D. Cagle, interim director of aviation for Charlotte Douglas International Airport) and accusing the agency of lying when it cites crowds as the reason for lines (Denver Airport).
Cory also notes that long lines for services used to be the symbol of Soviet oppression.
I quibble with the characterization of Pre customers as “wealthy.” I use Pre. I’m just a middle-class guy who travels a lot on the company dime. I’m only wealthy in the way that middle class Americans are wealthy on the global scale. If I traveled only one or two times a year or less, and had to pay for it myself, I would not buy Pre. Indeed, I suspect business travel is where TSA is getting its Pre revenue.