It’s the summer of waiting. Travelers are facing hour-plus lines getting through security at the nation’s airports, thanks to a confluence of factors that includes record numbers of people flying and fewer TSA screening officers.
There are several things travelers can do to get through security faster, but the No. 1 tip that travel authorities recommend is to register for TSA’s PreCheck program. PreCheck enables approved travelers to breeze through expedited security lanes that don’t require them to remove their shoes and belts or unpack liquids and laptops from their carry-on luggage. But it comes at a price.
PreCheck costs $85 to apply, and the fee is non-refundable even if you don’t get approved. That fee is worth paying if you’re a frequent business traveler, but it may be too expensive for families or people who fly only one or two times per year.
During the summer vacation season, that distinction is causing many travelers with PreCheck to wonder, can they take their family members without PreCheck through the expedited security line at the airport?
The official policy from the TSA is: “Family members ages 12 and under traveling with an eligible parent or guardian with a TSA PreCheck indicator on their boarding pass can participate in expedited screening. Family members 13 and older must go through standard security lanes or should apply for a DHS trusted traveler program.”
Despite the official policy, travelers on social media report that they’ve been allowed to take friends and family members over 13 through the PreCheck line.
The inconsistency likely means it’s at the security agent’s discretion. The TSA is trying to shorten long waits this summer and combat the negative image security lines are creating, so it may have unofficially loosened some restrictions such as the family member policy.
Last summer, the TSA ran a program called Managed Inclusion that allowed agents to pull low-risk passengers from standard security lanes and place them in PreCheck. Managed Inclusion ended in September of 2015, and the TSA hasn’t indicated that it’s back. But it does represent the value the TSA places in its agents’ judgement.
With that in mind, there are two things you should do if you have PreCheck and you’re traveling with family members who do not: ask the security agent and be nice. Before getting into any security line, simply ask the agent manning the entrances if you can bring a family member without PreCheck into the line with you. They may allow it, and all they can do otherwise is direct you to the standard security line. The other important tip to remember is to be nice. A friendly smile and a polite greeting goes a long way when trying to convince an ornery agent to let you bypass official policy.