Transportation Security Administration TSA Pre✓ logo
Source: Transportation Security Administration.

Should the Fee For Joining the TSA Pre✓ Program Be Reduced? No. It Should Be Eliminated.

P rior to Tuesday, September 11, 2001, virtually all passengers at virtually all airports in the United States were able to pass through security checkpoints with their shoes on; with whatever amount of liquids they wanted to carry in their bags which they carry aboard airplanes with them; and they were able to pass through a metal detector instead of a body scanner.

In order to enjoy a similar experience at an airport security checkpoint in the United States these days, you are required to complete a two-step application process — both via the Internet and by attending an interview in person — and pay a fee of $85.00 in order to enroll for five years in the TSA Pre✓ Program of the Transportation Security Administration; and that fee cannot be refunded once paid.

In addition, the TSA Pre✓ Program is not available at all airports in the United States; and even at airports where it is available, it is not always available at all hours in which the airport is open for business.

Included in that process is paying for the privilege of giving the government personal information about yourself — something which many Americans would have loathed to do prior to Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

Should the Fee For Joining the TSA Pre✓ Program Be Reduced? No. It Should Be Eliminated.

This study — which was released earlier today — was conducted by the U.S. Travel Association to estimate the number of air travelers who would be more likely to enroll in the TSA Pre✓ Program program if the price of enrolling in the program were reduced; or if the application process were simplified.

Here are the key findings of that study:

  • Of all respondents who are not currently enrolled in TSA Pre✓, 20.5 percent indicated that they were likely to enroll.
  • Of respondents not currently enrolled in TSA Pre✓ who stated that they were unlikely to enroll the program:
    • Half think the cost to enroll in the program is too high; and
    • One in five thinks the application process is too complicated.
  • Of respondents who stated that the cost to enroll in TSA Pre✓ is too high, 21 percent would be more likely to enroll if the price were reduced by up to $25.00, to $60.00.
  • Of those who stated that the application process is too complicated, 55 percent would be more likely to enroll in the program if the Transportation Security Administration simplified the application by moving it entirely via the Internet, and implemented other streamlining measures — such as enabling travelers to enroll via a mobile portable electronic device.
  • Overall, reducing the cost of enrollment and streamlining the application process would motivate 18 percent of respondents to enroll in TSA Pre✓.


Having companies charge for what used to not cost money is bad enough — such as checking luggage, which at one time would have been a preposterous idea about which to even think. To have the federal government of the United States charge for something which used to not cost money — with arguably no tangible benefit offered in return for that cost — is unacceptable…

…and it is not like passengers would actually get expedited through airport security checkpoints free of charge, as taxes are already being paid through the cost of airfare from the purchasing of tickets. I might even go so far as to say that the TSA Pre✓ Program is little more than a voluntary additional tax to receive what passengers used to get without paying extra.

My contention with the TSA Pre✓ Program has always been that it charged applicants a fee and required them to go through a process — neither of which passengers have had to endure prior to the terrorist attacks which occurred on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

Freedom of movement is a fundamental Constitutional right of American citizens — although the the federal government of the United States does not possess the power to protect freedom of movement; nor does it technically apply to travel to destinations outside of the United States.

I can understand a private enterprise or a public corporation charging extra for expedited mobility — such as paying a fee to bypass the line of an amusement park or restaurant. It gives customers a choice while offering ways to increase revenue for the entity which implements them…

…but travel is an essential part of the economy of the United States; and when people are standing in line simply to be processed at a security checkpoint at an airport, that is lost productivity. At this time, I have not yet been able to secure definitive statistics as to what exactly is the loss incurred by wasting the time of passengers who are attempting to travel from one place to another; but I would bet that that number is in the millions — if not billions — of dollars in lost productivity.

The problem is that ever since the Transportation Security Administration was formed, I have never been fully convinced that that federal agency has been proven to definitively increase the security component of travel — especially when it suffers from a failure rate of approximately 95 percent and awards one of its top officials bonuses which total $90,000.00. Thankfully, Kelly Hoggan has since been removed from his position.

In my opinion, people should be allowed to travel as freely and as quickly as possible — without compromising security, of course. My proposal of having four types of lanes at airport security checkpoints or the Innovation Lanes gifted by Delta Air Lines should help. Whatever may be the answer, passengers should not have to pay extra — or have to relinquish their personal information — to enjoy expedited security.

Why not give all passengers the expedited security which was once a part of the overall process; but have people who want to pay for such services enjoy extra benefits — similar to some of the benefits of a frequent travel loyalty program? For example, once a passenger has been processed through an airport security checkpoint — and therefore fulfilled the basic right of freedom of movement — why not offer a more comfortable upgraded area for those who pay extra as one of many possible benefits that those people may enjoy?

While admittedly not the best idea which I have ever thought, that is simply a nascent idea towards a more thoughtful discussion — and perhaps, a better solution.

There are many readers of The Gate who disagree with my point of view on this topic and believe in what they perceive as the value of paying for the option to enroll in the TSA Pre✓ Program; and I respect their opinions. If you are one of them — or even if you agree with me — by all means please argue your point of view by posting your comments below.

Source: Transportation Security Administration.

  1. “To have the federal government of the United States charge for something which used to not cost money — with arguably no tangible benefit offered in return for that cost — is unacceptable…”

    The government isn’t charging for something you used to get for free. What you used to get for free was mediocre security run by the lowest common denominator private contractor. The government is charging for the time and expense of processing applications and background checks and issuing TSA Pre cards. Sometimes those background checks and interviews can be complicated for the government after overhearing a couple while waiting for my interview.

    You pay a fee to get a driver’s license and a passport and have to submit certain information to be reviewed by the government. TSA Pre (and Global Entry) is the same concept. In order to offer TSA Pre, the TSA has to staff people at the airports to conduct interviews, review applications and conduct background checks. You likely also have some additional staffing to support the TSA Pre lanes. That all costs money and the people who use it should be the ones paying for it. When you’re paying $300+/pp for each plane ticket my guess is $19/yr for TSA Pre is a very small cost and the bigger burden for everyone is filling out the applications and going to the airport for interviews.

    1. @James —

      Amen! What this survey really reveals is that most Americans are lazy and dumb.

      “They want the process to be easier”. They probably haven’t looked at the application. It’s incredibly simple. The fingerprinting process alone took me less than 10 minutes. I had my KTN (Known Traveler Number) in 48 hours. And this was three days before Christmas. Yes, it’ll take longer now because of the current situation, but that doesn’t mean it’s any more complicated.

      “They want it to be less expensive”. Like you said, James, paying $17 a year to bypass a 2-to-3-hour wait where I have to take off my shoes, belt and jacket is minuscule. We pay more for a passport that tracks our whereabouts globally. Plus, you have to turn over your birth certificate to the State Department to make sure you’re an authentic American. No one complains about that.

      I’m a TSA Pre fan. If you don’t want it, don’t get it. I’d rather see you bitching and moaning in the longer lines as I fly by you shaking my head because you’re too cheap and lazy to do something simple to ease the joy of traveling.

  2. I agree 100% with James above. I don’t mind the cost and recognize the necessity for extra staffing for and understand the necessity to charge for it. I will admit that it infuriates me when American Airlines and Jet Blue don’t have their TSA lines open at JFK. That I find unacceptable.

    Well said James!

  3. James,

    What terrorist hijacking has “enchanced security” stopped in it’s tracks?

    Mediocre security is enough. What would have stopped 9/11? Locked cockpit doors and the knowledge to not submit to hijacking peacably. Neither of these important measures cost billions of dollars a year.

    The “enhanced” security is theatre. It does reassure the public that it’s safe to fly though, so we could just consider it another few billions to prop up our air travel industries. Because clearly they don’t get enough handouts already.

  4. Exactly that. Reduce the fee to zero, and enrollment in TSA Pre✓ won’t significantly go up. What people say they would do in a survey has no correlation to what they actually end up doing. The Gate’s contempt for government shows again in the form of confirmation bias.

  5. If you knew how many guns, knives and bullshit were caught on precheck… Do you think the actually TSA officers make anything off the money you pay for pre check. They aren’t! Your money goes to background checks and for people to treat TSA officers like they are shit!

  6. I have TSA pre check and travel at least 3 or 4 times a year. Both coming and going I was “randomly” selected for extra security and pat downs. Not once, not twice, but consistently for the last 2 years of travel. I think the pre check is bullshit.

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