The new TSA Pre-check process is a potential breakthrough for getting more expeditious processing through the security check for airline travel. To use the new expedited process, you have to be a Trusted Traveler. Once you become one — in theory — you not only get routed to a much shorter line, but you do not have to take your shoes and belt off nor remove your laptop from your carry-on luggage. Sounds almost too good to be true, but it actually works — except for travel with JetBlue.
I was accepted into the Trusted Traveler program by the TSA last week (details below on how to do this). JetBlue just released their new iPhone boarding pass two weeks ago (although they don’t have the iPhone Passbook integration completed yet) and so, combined with my new Trust Traveler status, I was quite enthusiastic about my flight from Orlando on Saturday morning. Their were hoards of people — many with mouse ears from DisneyWorld — and the lines were as long as I have ever seen. The Pre-Check line, however, was short. In fact, I went right to the TSA agent at his podium with no waiting at all. I thought to myself, this is going to be great. I will breeze through security and have time to stop by Starbucks for a Cafe Misto before my flight.
It all turned out to be too good to be true. Upon scanning my JetBlue boarding pass on my iPhone, the scanner displayed “carrier not recognized”. The TSA agent informed me that not only would the JetBlue iPhone boarding pass not be accepted at the Pre-Check line, it would not be accepted at any TSA line. He said the only solution was to go back to ticketing and get a printed boarding pass. So much for the new iPhone boarding pass. The TSA said the new Pre-check lines work fine for all the major airlines, but not for JetBlue. Time was not a problem because the JetBlue flight was subsequently delayed by four hours due to maintenance problems. I appreciated the $75 deposit that JetBlue made to everyone’s travel bank, but I would have much preferred to have an iPhone boarding pass app that works and fly with an airline that is recognized by the TSA scanners.
JetBlue seems to be IT-challenged. Their web site used to be progressive but they have not kept up. The iPhone boarding pass is late and still lacks the Passbook feature. Worse yet, it seems they have not been able to keep up with the TSA to integrate with the new Pre-Check security program. JetBlue service is good, their people are friendly, and they have nice airplanes with video. However, the bar has been raised. The mobile Internet is here and people expect apps to be available. As for not being able to keep up with the TSA, that should be a huge embarrassment for JetBlue. I talked to the captain before our much-delayed flight and he reported the “carrier not recognized” issue to IT support. He said they were not aware of the problem.
To become a Trusted Traveler, you must first visit the Global Online Enrollment System (GOES) and become a registered user. You then enter a lot of personal information about who you are, where you live, your driver license, passport, etc. Once you submit your application and a credit card payment of $100, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection folks review your information and then email you a conditional approval. You then sign back in to GOES and make an appointment for an in-person interview. As the program has caught on, finding an appointment availability at the time and place of your choice is not easy. I did mine at Orland International Airport. The interview includes a review of your application, driver license, and passport. A TSA agent takes a digital photograph and digital fingerprints (all ten of them) and you are then good to go — unless you fly JetBlue. This coming week I will find out the program works with United Airlines. The Pre-Check Trusted Traveler program has the potential to save frequent fliers a lot of time. Including my two hour (one way) drive to Orlando, I am about six hours in the hole so far.