The TSA Solution
by John Delach
In November of 2014, I published a piece; TSA Giveth and TSA Taketh Away, about my introduction to TSA PreCheck. Frequent travelers encouraged me to sign on. Inertia, laziness, etc. prevailed so instead I chose to rely on the TSA’s serendipitious issuance of pre check approved boarding passes that seemingly Mary Ann and I almost always received whenever we flew.
In April, when I printed my pass for the flight to Greensboro, NC for my vintge steam engine train trip, like magic my luck worked again, this time like a charm. Armed with my pre check designated boarding pass, I joined that exclusive line at LaGuardia only to realize that the screening device was a standard X-ray machine and not one of the image body scanners. All I carried was a gym bag, enough for this short trip. I explained to a young TSA Agent that my artificial hip would light up the X-ray machine like a slot machine in Vegas.
He snapped to attention, ordered me to put my bag through the X-ray, called for his replacement and proceeded to navigate me across the screening area to the only image scanner. We cut a line of two dozen people waiting for their turn and he personally escorted me up to the machine and waited while another agent manning the machine checked my suspenders. That accomplished, he returned me to the conveyor belt containing my gym bag. To say the least, I was impressed as to how powerful pre check boarding passes can be.
Following that experience, I was disappointed on I printing out my return boarding pass at the hotel in Greensboro that the TSA had failed to assign me the same designation for my return flight to LaGuardia. Fortunately, I had a morning flight out of that sleepy, semi-bypassed airport making me TSA’s only customer when I reached security so all went as well as I could hope.
My experience at LaGuardia and of not being selected in Greensboro gave me pause for thought about the value of TSA PreCheck. My conversion was heightened by recent TV reports hyping stories of horror at security check-ins due to new rules and shortages of TSA agents. The message was clear especially as I had booked three additional trips for 2016, Myrtle Beach in July, Green Bay in October and Fort Myers in December.
TSA’s on line site gave Long Islanders four choices where we could apply for pre check; Terminal C at LaGuardia, Terminal 4 at JFK, 781 Broadway in Brooklyn or Quality Plaza, 958, S Broadway, Hicksville, NY.
I chose Hicksville and entered the address into my GPS for a dry run. I saw the sign for “Quality Plaza” as the GPS announced that I reached my destination. A lousy strip mall, I thought to myself as I parked and doubtfully surveyed the scene: A workout center, a store for beading artists, a billiard supply store, a liquor store and a lingerie retailer. I searched for TSA but all I found at No. 958 was a place that specialized in verifying identification. To this day, I am not sure who they are but my credit card identifies them as: IdentoGo.
About half of the two dozen chairs were occupied as I entered. I took my turn to explain to the young woman behind the counter that I wanted to make an appointment. She gave me a number to call. I thanked her, walked out and made the call.
The following Monday, Mary Ann and I arrived at our appointed time to find a crowded office waiting for their turn. We both chose not to comment and wait and see. Despite the semi-mob scene, we were called by a young man in relatively short order. I asked him why he took us so soon and he replied, “You had a reservation.”
We used our passports as ID, answered all questions, submitted to electronic finger printing and paid $85 each for the search and a five year license, then left to wait for our approval.
Two days later the TSA confirmed to us by e mail that they…”reviewed your TSA PreCheck® application and determined you are eligible for TSA PreCheck® expedited screening.” The notice identified the site to use to retrieve the Known Traveler Number (KTN) and is short order I had both my and Mary Ann’s KTN.
What could have been a bureaucratic nightmare ended remarkably well! Now it was time to visit the DMV and please stay tuned.