Way back in April of 2015, we told you that the TSA would soon be significantly cutting the number of free trips through Precheck for non-members. Stuff happened, including last summer's extraordinarily high domestic air travel volume and corresponding security lines, as well as fewer Precheck sign-ups than hoped. TSA agents have continued to allow certain travelers without Known Traveler Numbers to proceed through the "express lane".
That's now set to change. TSA has notified airlines that they'll be cutting those trips through Precheck for non-members significantly starting in February.
One of the goals of this initiative, as stated by the TSA, is to increase the number of frequent travelers who have Known Traveler Numbers so that the TSA can put their focus on that very small number of travelers who actually pose a risk to security. That makes sense to me. Skift reports that sign-ups for the program are at about 12 million, which is behind schedule to hit their goal of 25 million members by 2019.
What does that mean for Precheck members?
For one, it should mean that your already quick trip through the Precheck lane could be a little quicker. When travelers who aren't familiar with Precheck, or aren't accustomed to going through airport security at all, are waved through, it tends to slow the process down. Fewer of those people moving over to the Precheck line should help keep that line moving, which will be a good thing for business travelers.
What does this mean for non-Precheck travelers?
In addition to meaning that you're going to have to take your shoes off and take your laptop out, it could also mean that traditional security lines may move a little slower. The TSA doesn't believe there will be much of an impact but time will tell. It also means that you might want to look into getting yourself a Known Traveler Number. You can do that by getting approved for Precheck directly or through a number of additional programs, including Global Entry, SENTRI and NEXUS.