I’m sitting at the gate at the airport, waiting for my flight to Italy. I’ve arrived earlier than normal and I did a little experiment at the security line. Lines are crazy long today, who knows why? I decided to try and guess which security line at the airport would be the fastest and learned some lessons.
At SeaTac airport there are three lines, one for TSA Pre-check, one for the general public and one for Premium Classes, or people with status on an airline. General boarding was super long today, winding around like a line at a Disneyland rollercoaster. TSA Precheck was full, with maybe 20 people in line. Premium was empty. That seemed like an easy choice there.
I’ve just reached Gold status on Delta, something I’ve earned by flying a LOT and by using the Delta American Express for all of my expenses. I was under the impression that I would get free international upgrades with this new status, which isn’t exactly true, but there are other neat benefits that I felt made it a worthwhile thing to go out of my way to arrange. One of the benefits is using dedicated security lines, not just here but all over the world.
Today that line was empty. Or so I thought. I sauntered up to the podium and showed my ticket, assuming I’d be shown to an empty security gate. No such luck. I was shown to a long line AFTER the entrance counter, which was hard to see at the Premium entrance. I double checked that I wouldn’t have to remove my shoes.
TSA Precheck allows you to leave on your shoes and coat and to keep your electronics in the bag, so I wanted to be able to use that benefit that I paid for. The guy at the counter put a big X on my boarding pass and told me to keep my shoes on. This is an important point of order only because I am wearing knee high black boots today, and they are kind of a pain to take on and off since one of the zippers broke. The things I do for style.
So, I got in the long line and waited for about 10 minutes, then put my stuff on the X-ray belt and was ready to go through. Not so fast. No coats or scarves allowed. So I disrobed. Ready? Not so fast again. Do I have a electronics? Why, yes I do. Those had to be all taken out. I was not prepared for this since I’ve gotten used to the Precheck benefit, so everything was buried in my bag. Now I was feeling like that schmuck that holds up the line because they don’t read directions.
I asked the guy at the X-ray machine what the deal was, and he told me that I was silly to not use the Precheck line. The premium line only gets you to the front of the general boarding line. Even though the TSA Precheck line looked longer, he told me that it moves super fast. People don’t need to disrobe or take apart bags. There is no hold up on the other side putting things back together. And generally, he said quietly, the people in that line are more organized since they are frequent travelers.
I’d estimate that the general line was taking about 30 minutes. Premium was about 15, all together. Precheck was coming in about 7 minutes. Lesson learned. If you don’t have TSA Precheck, get it. If you do, use it!
One footnote to this story- if you do have TSA Precheck, be sure you enter the number when you reserve your plane ticket. I forgot to do that in October when I was going to Texas. Even though I had the card with me, the security line would not allow myself and my kids to go through. I had to get my boarding passes all reprinted at the check in counter, stamped with my TSA number, to use that line, which I did. Even with that detour, it saved us 30 minutes. The good news here is that kids can tag along on your TSA number until they are 12. I’ve got another 6 months of easy living until my baby ages out.
My flight is boarding now, I’ll update you on my adventures when I get to Europe!