Posts Tagged ‘TSA Pre-check’

TSAPrecheckHave you waited in an airport security line lately, waiting for your turn, when you saw a few select passengers walk right by you in the TSA Pre-check line?

Due to my frequent flyer elite status, I have been randomly selected a number of times for TSA Pre-check.

I got to walk past the cattle fences and envious stares of fellow travelers, right up to the conveyor at the X-ray machine, since there usually is no line at the Pre-check stations.

I didn’t take off my shoes, belt or jacket. I didn’t take out my computer or toiletries. I simply put my bag on the conveyor, my cell phone into a bin, walked right through and done I was.

That is the way to deal with airport security. TSA Pre-check.

I knew immediately that I’d need to get a permanent pass for this. So I walked up to one of the agents and asked for information. I expected he’d point me to some desk or station where I could fill out the necessary forms.

However, I was disappointed when he simply gave me the little book-mark-like flyer to the left of this column.

Scanning the QR code launched me to the TSA Pre-check website. I realized that I was not going to be able to sign up at the airport. At the website, there was lots of valuable information, and a list of places where I could enroll.

I found one place in San Diego:

TSA San Diego

So I took the time and drove to San Diego one afternoon and found a UES Enrollment Center. When I checked in, the staffer behind the desk just gave me a blank stare and said: “We don’t do that here yet. We’ll start on March 17th.”

There was no arguing with him. The fact is, not matter what the TSA website says, you can’t enroll in San Diego.

The closest place was in Colton or Signal Hill in the L.A. area, a two-hour drive in good traffic from San Diego.

I was dumbfounded. San Diego and Orange County cover a population of over six million people, and the TSA does not have a single site to enroll?

So I thought I’d better get online and make a reservation first. How did I know that the location in Signal Hill would be real? When I went through the application process, I found out that you can only make reservations for the next 30 days. All the sites I checked were completely booked for the next 30 days. This was the message the site provided:

Please note, appointments may only be made for a date within a 30 day window of completing the online application, and if all available appointments are booked in that period, appointments would not be accepted, requiring the applicant to check back for availability. The applicant also may visit an enrollment site as a “walk-in” without an appointment but could experience a longer wait time.

What an insane system! I’d have to go check back every few days at all sites, hoping for an opening?

So I took a chance, took an afternoon off of work (since it’s four hours of driving both ways) and drove to Signal Hill. Once I got there, I thought I was lost, when I meandered around an industrial parking lot past upholstery shops, body shops, and all manner of other small businesses with simple storefronts. I finally found suite 105, the Enrollment Center.


I walked in and there was a big open area with some 30 cheap folding chairs aligned in front of a battered desk where nobody sat. Most of the chairs were occupied by people, some looking forward, some reading, some fidgeting with papers. It was deathly quiet. Nobody spoke. It felt like I had walked in on a written driving test at the DMV. Everyone was focused on their paper.

Eventually a lady came to the desk and I was able to tell her why I was there. She took my name, mumbled something about having to wait since I didn’t have an appointment. She told me to sit down until my name was called.


This was my view for the next TWO HOURS of waiting. People came, people went. Application takers would come out to the desk, find the next name, and then go back with the client into a cubicle.

When it was finally my turn, things actually went quickly. I answered some basic questions, showed my passport, had prints taken of all ten fingers, paid the $85 fee and got a receipt. The whole procedure was fairly automated on one workstation with the peripherals, and I was done within ten minutes of entering the cubicle.

When I add up all the time this took, it’s more than eight hours of driving and waiting to get this application in. The system is confusing to clients, disorganized and just flat-out sloppy.

Why could the TSA not have one or two of these workstations at all the airports, where we already are there, ID in hand, with time available while we’re waiting for our flights? There are always many TSA agents at the security checkpoints that are just standing around. Could they not assign one or two of them to do this enrollment and streamline the process for clients?

This is an example of the federal government implementing a simple program, and doing a very lousy and shabby job of it. I can’t trust my government to enroll people in a secure flyer program without requiring them to spend eight hours traveling and waiting in line.

How can I trust them with the implementation of a universal health care program?



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