A Travel Expert Answers? Should You Ditch Your Companion at TSA if You Have PreCheck and They Don't

Would you bid your travel partner farewell at airport security to enjoy the luxuries of TSA PreCheck? It's a divisive question for the efficiency-obsessed traveler

Published Time: 31.03.2024 - 18:31:05 Modified Time: 31.03.2024 - 18:31:05

Would you bid your travel partner farewell at airport security to enjoy the luxuries of TSA PreCheck?

It's a divisive question for the efficiency-obsessed traveler. On one hand, you get a more hassle-free security experience, but on the other, you may provoke a rift with your companion after ditching them in perhaps the most chaotic part of the airport.

The Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) PreCheck status expedites the screening process, making it easy for travelers to go through the safety routine in just a few minutes. PreCheck users also get to skip some of the hassles that the regular security line brings, like removing their shoes and taking their laptops out of their bags. 

Though PreCheck has been around since 2013 and is offered at more than 200 airports in the United States, it does require an application process and fee that deters some fliers.

But is it actually rude to leave your travel partner behind if you have PreCheck and they don't? PEOPLE spoke with travel advisor Nicole Campoy Jackson of Fora Travel for the answer.

According to Jackson, ditching your travel partner or group to use the PreCheck line really boils down to “know your audience.”

“If you’re traveling for work and one or some of you have PreCheck and the others don’t, go for it. No need to wait in line unnecessarily,” she explains. 

On the opposite end, “If you’re a couple on your honeymoon, it's maybe not the best start to things to leave your beloved behind at security.”

She adds that if you’re the one traveling without PreCheck, you need to “know yourself” and speak up about being an anxious traveler who would prefer companionship during the sometimes stressful security process if that's the case.

However, it gets a bit more complicated when you’re traveling as a family.

Per TSA’s official website, children 12 years old or younger are allowed to accompany an enrolled parent or guardian with PreCheck “without restriction.”Children ages 13 to 17 can also join their parents as long as they have a TSA PreCheck indicator on their boarding pass.

“Multi-generational travelers can discuss it — grandma and grandpa have PreCheck? Great, let them go,” Jackson says, adding that caveat that you should not "make grandma and grandpa take y -

our kids through security without you unless you know for certain everyone can handle that.”

As for when it would be completely unacceptable to leave behind a travel partner at security, Jackson references any situation where someone definitely needs help going through the process. 

Some examples she gives include, if someone "can’t lift that carry-on easily on their own, is a very nervous or less experienced flier and needs your support." Leaving "your spouse alone with your young kids or your elderly parent who’s moving more slowly these days" are also no-gos for Jackson.

She adds that it’s only acceptable to “push back” if your travel partner is “entirely capable” of going through the line on their own. 

“I think you can push back, once, and say, ‘please let me keep my laptop in my bag, I beg of you.’ But if they insist, then I would suggest you respect that they want or need you this time for whatever reason,” she explains. 

If the traveler with PreCheck does decide to leave their partner behind after they were asked not to, Jackson says their companion then has “every right” to be angry. However, they shouldn’t let it ruin a trip.

“It’s a security line, it’s not meant to be fun or bonding or memorable. If you’re the one that’s been left behind and feel that your partner needs to repair that, I recommend making them jump in the Starbucks line with all of their ‘extra time’ and make sure they have your order exactly right,” she jokes.

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Asked whether PreCheck is worth it for regular travelers, Jackson says, “a thousand times yes. If everyone in your group has it then this conversation (and all of the potential drama) is a moot point.”

The application process can be started online and costs $78 for a five-year enrollment. After that, it will be another $70 for an online renewal or $78 to renew in person. At the enrollment location, travelers can expect to be fingerprinted and present required documents, photos and payment.

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