What do you do if your traveling partner doesn’t have TSA Precheck but you do? As far as I see it, you have two options: trudge through the normal security line with your partner or go your separate ways at security and meet up on the other side. It’s the kind of question that can bring out strongly held opinions. Kinda like asking someone whether it’s pronounced pecan or pecan (admit it, you read that two different ways)! It’s a question we’ve been discussing in the King household as of late. Not only because we’ve been looking to travel a little bit more, but because I have TSA Precheck and my wife does not. We’ll get to what we typically do in a minute, but first let’s rewind the clock and begin with what TSA Precheck is.
What is TSA Precheck?
TSA Precheck is a government-run screening program that allows those who sign up a way to bypass the usual security checkpoint for a shorter, expedited route through those TSA security checkpoints. For $85 (which will enroll you in Precheck for five years), you get to take advantage of several perks, including not having to take off your shoes or belt, and leaving your laptop or your 3-1-1 bag in your carry on.
If a couple is traveling together, you’ll often find both will get TSA Precheck even if only one of you has gone through the application process. The TSA is mum about why this happens/doesn’t happen, but back in 2018 the House of Representatives passed a bill to try to stop this practice - before the Senate let it die in 2019.
Go through together or split up at security?
If there is one thing air travel is today - I would argue - it’s an experience. What do I mean? Well, I mean - most of the time the “experience” of arriving at the airport, going through security, walking through the terminal, waiting at the gate, boarding the plane, flying, and deboarding is okay, it’s fine, it is what it is, and you’ve been there, done that before.
Sometimes, on the other hand, you experience something that’s more unique than a been-there-done-that type of thing.
It could be a bad experience like a long security line, a lost bag, a last minute gate change that has you running through the terminal, or any number of similar situations. Alternatively, it could be a nice experience like having a day-pass to an airline lounge, getting upgraded to business or first class, or getting to the airport to find a short security line.
Both the nice experiences and the bad experiences are not usually the norm. The norm is the been-there-done-that scenario.
I bring all of this up because many travelers like to look for any way they can turn the ho-hum, been there, done that trip into something nice! One of the ways they do that is TSA Precheck. Getting to sail through security while everyone else has to wait in a long line is a nice feeling. Keeping your shoes on while everyone else has to take them off? I'm there for it!
Thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, pay for that nice feeling (or get it for free through one of their credit cards). And as it turns out, many of those people have wives, husbands, partners, or significant others who don’t have TSA Precheck.
So what would you do? Wait with your partner? Or see them on the other side?
The Points Guy did some of the heavy lifting for me and asked their readers what they would do. A whopping 2% of the readers who answered said they’d wait with their significant other in the regular security line. Are you a 2-percenter?
As for my wife and me, when we’re booked on the same ticket - we both get TSA Precheck 80-90% of the time and it’s not an issue. But on the occasion that I get the Precheck stamp and she doesn’t, in short, it depends. On what? I honestly don’t know. Maybe the side of the bed I woke up on, maybe the time of day the flight is, or maybe something else.
I can remember this happening twice. One trip I stayed with her through the regular security line. The other trip, we agreed that I’d “see her on the other side.”
Does it make a difference who books the tickets?
My going theory is yes. If memory serves, the time(s) we both got Precheck, I booked, and the time(s) we didn’t, she did.
I’m not sure how good the TSA is at their security job (I’ve written before about why the strategies they use might not be the most effective). But TSA Precheck is a nice perk to have. If you travel enough, it’s probably worth the time and effort to get it. You may also want to double check the credit card perks you have with your current cards. It’s very possible one of them will get you Precheck for free.
Now that that’s settled - what do you and your significant other do if one of you gets upgraded by the airline you’re flying with and the other doesn’t?
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