When is TSA Pre-check, not Pre-check?

I travelled through Honolulu last week. Stopping by the American Airlines desk I asked where PreCheck was. She directed me down to the main international entrance to security. There was a PreCheck line which you access through its own automatic sliding door. ‘Woot’, I thought this is going to be good.

Once inside there were only two people in line,  Excellent.

However, once at the podium where TSA checks your ID and Boarding Pass I was given a yellow slip.

Reading it quickly, there wasn’t space between the podium and the belt, I noticed that I needed to get out my liquids.

Shouted at in the normal TSA way, I was told (loudly) that this was ‘Modified Pre-Check’.

In fact it only meant that Pre-Check customers got to keep their shoes on.

Liquids? Out

Laptop? Out

iPad? Out

So after the laborious process of unpacking and repacking I went in search of a TSA ‘3 striper’ and a complaint form. I found one them.

The ‘3 Striper’ explained that because they mixed non-Pre and Pre passengers they operated a modified Pre-Check here. Clearly the yellow cards were enough to tell the person at the security arch that we were Pre-check and so could retain our shoes,  but not enough to tell the x-ray operator.

‘What?’ I asked ‘Was the point of paying for Pre-check/Global Entry’ when the service is the same?

She didn’t really have an answer, and whilst I have written to the TSA via the web site no reply has been received.

It seems that some Pre-Checks are better than others.


  1. this is std SOP for TSA pre-check in a blended lane – shoes on, laptop out, liquids out; i fly a small airport, same deal there.

  2. Among frequent fliers, this is known as ‘PC lite’ & happens quite frequently either because the airport has never embraced the concept of PC or because TSA can’t/won’t staff sufficiently to allow for it. There are websites that track this, btw. You may also wish to complain to the airport itself, as well-TSA doesn’t listen to the average pax, but does, sometimes, listen to the airlines & airports re: complaints about their ‘service’.

  3. Why did you have to take your iPad out? That’s not normal in the US in the non-Precheck lines. I have never had to take the iPad out in the US at any airport. The instructions are to take a laptop computer, a DVD player, etc., out but they explicitly exclude iPads and tablets. I know that European airports require iPads out so I was wondering if you did this out of habit or it’s an HNL thing.

  4. HNL is a tourist airport for the most part. There is not enough volume of PreCheck members to dedicate a full lane of this service which would likely sit empty more often than not, making for a poor use of personnel and equipment. While the modified procedure is a pain, it is better than nothing at those airports where it is operated…including EWR’s A terminal where it is both physically difficult to have the full service lanes (and in pier 1 where most flyers are unlikely to be Pre Check members). In this case as much as I detest not getting the full pass, TSA gets it right.

  5. Our small airport used to have that. Now they have a separate pre-check lane that leads to the single TSA checkpoint. Because there’s a separate lane, we get full pre-check treatment: shoes/jacket on, all items left in bags.

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