Nobody’s Guaranteed TSA PreCheck 100% of the Time – There Are Quirks You Should Know About

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Global Entry is useful, even for folks who don’t travel outside the country that often.  That’s because you’ll receive a free membership to TSA PreCheck, which is helpful for scooting past the security checkpoint without undressing or taking your laptop and toiletries from your carry-on bags.

You probably already know that.  But something you may not know is that you’re never guaranteed to receive TSA PreCheck 100% of the time.  Whether you’ve got Global Entry or you’ve actually applied for TSA PreCheck, there will still be some times you’re not selected, and you’ll have to wait in the regular line just like all the normal travelers.

On top of that, there are some airline quirks that will further prevent you from receiving TSA PreCheck.  I ran into a problem when booking a domestic American Airlines flight with Iberia Avios points.

As a reminder, you can get TSA PreCheck (via an up to $100 statement credit) with cards like:

Do you have a TSA PreCheck membership?  It doesn’t mean you’ll always get to walk through the fast lane

TSA PreCheck Is Never Guaranteed

While booking an American Airlines flight with Iberia Avios points, I could not find anywhere to attach my Trusted Traveler Number (Global Entry or TSA PreCheck number).  As far as I know, you cannot add your Global Entry number to an Iberia reservation.  I’ve read an account of a traveler calling Iberia and requesting they manually attach a trusted traveler number to his reservation, but I’ve never tried it.

In the past, there have been a couple scenarios where I’ve booked a flight and added my Trusted Traveler Number to my reservation later.  Because I couldn’t add my number through Iberia, I figured I’d try to add it to my reservation at the airport.  My number was already attached to my American Airlines account, so I figured it wouldn’t be a big deal.

It was a big deal.

At the airport, the American Airlines agent was very friendly and helpful.  He spent a good 15 minutes trying to add my number to my reservation, despite my constant stream of “don’t worry about it’s.”  This was taking more time than TSA PreCheck would save me.

He asked for my physical Global Entry card, but the system would NOT accept my number.  We then concluded that American Airlines reservations booked through Iberia would not allow for TSA PreCheck (if you’ve ever received TSA PreCheck through Iberia, I’d love to hear it).

The agent then told me to just walk through the TSA PreCheck lane and hand my Global Entry card to the officer, and I should be good to go.

I had been instructed to do this once before by an airline agent, and it didn’t work.  But I said thank you and decided to try it anyway.  It didn’t work.  The TSA officer said that if your ticket isn’t TSA PreCheck, the scanner at the PreCheck lane won’t accept it.  Just an FYI, in case you’re ever instructed something similar.

While there have been a few occasions I’ve not received TSA PreCheck despite having a membership, I’d estimate my success rate is still 95%.  That’s good enough for me.

And because you can download your boarding pass within 24 hours of your flight, you’ve got plenty of time to glance and see if you’ve received it for your upcoming flight (you’ll see the TSA PreCheck logo on your boarding pass).  If not, you can adjust your trip to the airport accordingly!  Don’t always assume the airline agent can manually add your number to your reservation.

If you’ve ever been denied TSA PreCheck for a similar reason, I’d love to hear it.  And subscribe to our newsletter below!

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10 months ago

I waited in line for an Alaska Airlines flight. The person in front of me was having an issue with his pre check not showing up despite the fact he had had it for a few years. The CSA said it was the second time that morning. (Small airport and only the third flight of the day) I looked at my boarding pass on the app and noticed I didn’t have it either. I booked through their app like I have the previous 27 flights this year and for years, and it wasn’t there. The CSA’s were great and tried to re enter my birth date, name, pull and reassign my seat to no avail. They said that tsa limits the number of Precheck travelers per flight and it may have hit its limit. I checked my expiration and I’m good for another 16 months. Can not find a reason for it. More curious I talked to a fellow traveler who does not have pre check and they said the get it on their ticket probably 25% of the time they fly. Despite never signing up or doing an interview. The max Precheck passengers per flight is interesting. Anyone else heard of this or had it happen?

Larry Britton
1 year ago

All airline reservations go through a system called Selectflight. That is where your KTN (Known Traveler Number) is applied to your flight. You may have paid for Precheck, but you can be randomly excluded as a security check on your precheck status. You can lose precheck if you bring prohibited and or *prohibited items to the checkpoint, and if you are flagged by an airline for bad behavior on the plane.

1 year ago

My husband and I have Global Entry and are getting TSA PreCheck only about 1/3 of the time. We are bummed.

Andrew W
Reply to  Patti
1 year ago

Yikes, only 1/3rd of the time? I would not be too happy with that.

Do either you or your husband have anything unusual about your name, like punctuations, hyphens, spaces in weird areas, or anything like that? I’ve read that those can sometimes cause issues if the name on your airline ticket doesn’t match what the TSA has on their side.

1 year ago

My wife’s PreCheck showed up on an AA flight booked with Iberia Avios. This was last week on an LAX to JFK flight booked with the 90000 promo Avios. Our daughter on the same reservation, without PreCheck, also got it – it just showed up on the Boarding Pass.

Andrew W
Reply to  Robert
1 year ago

I’ve read reports online about similar scenarios – people getting TSA PreCheck on their boarding passes even though they haven’t registered through the program.

Would be very curious to see what criteria they use.

1 year ago

With some airlines you do not get TSA pre-check at ALL airports. For instance, I believe with Frontier, Portland, ME and San Diego (May have been Southwest), do not give you pre-check! It was especially troublesome in Portland as we very nearly missed our flight assuming we could zip through.

Andrew W
Reply to  bill
1 year ago

Hi Bill,

You are correct! I just checked the TSA website now and it says that the TSA PreCheck process is available at 200+ airports and 65 participating airlines nationwide.

It’s a good reminder though that even though that’s pretty decent coverage, not every airline or airport will offer TSA PreCheck.

Thanks for commenting!

1 year ago

Let me comment on the trick I use with British Air Avios. I regularly book an AA flight RT from Sarasota to DCA for 7500 Avios points each way coach. The same flight on AA using Advantage Miles would be 12,500, minimum. The BA system does not let me enter my Global # and even if I call BA, the Global # does not attach. The trick is to call AA and ask them for your AA confirmation #, not the BA # printed on your confirmation. Also, give them your Advantage # and ask them to add it to the reservation. This is very important. Ask them at the same time to add your Global #. They will do it and most of the time it shows up on your AA immediately. If it does not, you can then do it on-line. Works every time for me and I fly this route about 10 times a year.