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“TSA PreCheck Shouldn’t Exist”: The Op-Ed Everyone Is Reading

“TSA PreCheck Shouldn’t Exist”: The Op-Ed Everyone Is Reading
Jennifer Billock

Ah, the glory of TSA PreCheck, a system that allows those of us with extra special privileges to get through security at the airport easier and quicker than everyone else. But, according to one comedian who’s currently going viral, it’s also a system rife with classism and unfair special treatment for those who can afford it.

If you’re a frequent traveler, you likely know the beauty of TSA PreCheck. No more do you have to stand in line with a surly Transportation Security Administration officer, basically unloading everything you just packed up into little bins meant to see if you’re carrying bombs, drugs, or some other contraband. Instead, you sail through security, right past the dreaded full-body scanner, shoes on, laptop in bag, and on to your gate in record time.

It’s a beautiful system. But it’s also very, very flawed. Logically, Josh Gondelman argues for Vox, TSA PreCheck should not exist. “It is an amazing trick of the TSA to make a trip through a standard metal detector feel as refreshing as a stroll through Central Park,” Gondelman writes. “And I fall for it every time, like a child whose grandfather keeps magically finding quarters behind his ear. All for the cost of a few dozen dollars and the willingness to wade neck-deep into a moral gray area.”

That moral gray area is one of privilege, where only the people who can afford are granted the opportunity to get PreCheck. Plus, we’ve basically been tricked by the government into letting us pay them to monitor us. “We should not have to sacrifice privacy for convenience, and we should not be allowed to pay to bypass ‘necessary’ security measures for a small fee,” Gondelman writes. “Either no one deserves these privileges or we all do.”

What do you think? Let us know in the FlyerTalk forums discussion.


[Image Source: iStock]

View Comments (37)


  1. PHL

    September 11, 2019 at 4:25 pm

    It was a boring op-ed that didn’t really seem to go anywhere but make the same point repeatedly. Yes, Pre-Check is awesome, but it’s certainly not for the privileged elite. $85 isn’t a significant amount of money to most people who buy even 1 or 2 tickets per year.

  2. jtrsss524

    September 11, 2019 at 4:30 pm

    As a frequent flyer I have TSA-Pre. The writer is correct – it is a privilege. At $85 dollars for five years – it is priced way too high for almost everyone – except for a chosen few. Ah – that $17 dollars a year sure does separate the classes, doesn’t it? To think, I have paid $200, $500 or in some cases even more to fly on that “golden” goose (aka, an airplane) – why should I have to fork over more money so I don’t have to take off my shoes, take out my liquids or computer… Oh… I know why I give up 4, yes 4 Starbucks cups of coffee a year – so I don’t have to take off my shoes, take out my liquids or computer! Gee – TSA is there for everyone – whether it is Pre of regular. I get to board early due to my status, I get free drinks on board and I have access to airline clubs… is that next for the writer to complain about? If Joe and Susie Flyer can’t pony up a whopping $17/year why am I the bad guy? Out of solidarity – maybe the writer should not fly at all – given some people can’t even afford a plane ticket – or the $25/day parking rates at the airport!

  3. JimInOhio

    September 11, 2019 at 4:41 pm

    Is Mr. Gondelman also peeved that some people dine once in a while at Ruth’s Chris while others are stuck waiting in line at McDonalld’s? Horrors!

  4. FullFare

    September 11, 2019 at 5:00 pm

    Guy is nuts. Should stay in entertainment or whatever his day job is.
    Sorry. Pre-check is well designed, and those who use it are good candidates for it, and I haven’t seen any obvious “failure” of its use.
    I see folks of many different social strata using it

  5. cmd320

    September 11, 2019 at 5:11 pm

    If anything it’s priced too cheap and not selective enough. Perhaps there should be higher tiers for those willing to spend more money. Precheck Gold or Precheck Platinum for example.

  6. DeltaFlyer123

    September 11, 2019 at 5:27 pm

    TSA PreCheck actually speeds up the inspection process and thereby saves taxpayers money because it removes the zero-risk passengers from TSA’s workload, so they can concentrate on the higher-risk or unknown risk-ones.

  7. Dr. HFH

    September 11, 2019 at 6:22 pm

    What nonsense.

  8. hfb606

    September 11, 2019 at 8:09 pm

    Ignorant click-bait op-ed. The author is an idiot.

  9. gmt4

    September 11, 2019 at 8:24 pm

    “The Op-Ed everyone is reading” ?? Ah, no. No one had ever heard of it or Josh Gondelman until it was posted here to generate traffic.

  10. Moyerclan

    September 11, 2019 at 9:23 pm

    Poor Josh, so young….never knew a time when flying was actually fun. Elegant, exciting! We used to get dressed up to fly! So if thru my hard work I’ve earned the income to fly in such a way that I obtain Pre-check just to get closer to the memory of flying with ease, you begrudge that to me?? Fie on you, sir!

  11. JackE

    September 12, 2019 at 12:04 am

    Hard to keep from laughing at a globe-trotting millennial ranting about entitled people.

  12. fotographer

    September 12, 2019 at 3:22 am

    what ever Josh…. just dont fly and drive everywhere you need to go
    another snowflake in the making

  13. Dublin_rfk

    September 12, 2019 at 4:23 am

    tsa-Pre isn’t so much a privilege as much as it’s profiling. Profiling used as it has always been used. People that have proved (through established patterns) that they are not terrorists are allowed a slightly easier path through security.

  14. Babu

    September 12, 2019 at 5:32 am

    Yawn. The dude should move to North Korea, where such first world problems would evaporate.

  15. downinit

    September 12, 2019 at 5:54 am

    Considering the low price relative to the price of a plane ticket or to even the cost of fast food inside the terminal, I would say that any argument for classism is completely moronic and moot. But that just validates the real justification for precheck: separating the people who know how to travel and get through security vs the mentally deficient people who grind a security line to a halt due to their inability to follow very simple instructions. Granted, there are always a few of these people in the Pre line, but the vast majority are relegated to the regular line.

  16. rylan

    September 12, 2019 at 6:09 am

    Pretty bad example of a ‘moral gray area’ of privilege… I didn’t know that $100 over 5 years is only for the upper class top 1%. Maybe the real issue is that people don’t want to submit their info and go for the interview because they have some issue that excludes them from getting Pre.

    Where he starts to almost make a point is with the government getting us to pay them to monitor us… but they already do that. Its called the Transportation and Security Fee that is embedded in every ticket. So even without Pre, we are still paying a security fee to go through.

  17. trm2


    September 12, 2019 at 6:19 am

    Also, my using PreCheck frees up a spot in the regular line, you are welcome you poor people who can’t afford $85 every 5 years.

  18. JoeDTW

    September 12, 2019 at 6:50 am

    I fly only 5x or 6x a year. This means I go through security at most 12 times a year.

    Over the five year life of my Pre Check membership, it will cost me about $1.50 per trip through security, to save 30 to 45 minutes per trip through security. It costs me $2.00 to take the bus from my home to the airport, so TSA Pre Check costs me less than the cheapest form of transportation to the airport does.

    More importantly, because most of my trips are to visit my elderly parents, being a TSA Pre Check member means I’m paying $1.50 to have an extra 30 minutes with my parents each time I visit them, at a time when I know that I may have relatively few minutes left with them before they pass away.

    To me, TSA Pre Check is not about privledge. It’s about common sense. If Pre Check is affordable to even a very infrequent flyer like me, then it’s affordable to anyone.

  19. edgewood49

    September 12, 2019 at 6:56 am

    PHL is correct, rehashing without any real input. Now with respect to the writer and jtrsss524 It is NOT a “privilege” simply pay a fee, get a background check and away you go, end of story. Maybe the writer is F’s Elizabeth Warren !!!

  20. OZFLYER86

    September 12, 2019 at 6:58 am

    missed the whole point. The TSA should not exist. It’s one massive joke, that anyone can get around without trying very hard. Look at all the guns that get through the TSA.

  21. JAGorham

    September 12, 2019 at 7:01 am

    Privilege? Yes, indeed, it’s a privilege. And not because of the money (which isn’t that much, as jtress524 has noted), but because one has a decent (meaning nonexistant) criminal background and such. It is a tangible reward for those who have *earned* the privilege, not merely paid for it.

  22. John Portland

    September 12, 2019 at 7:35 am

    People who get TSA-pre should pay the actual costs to do the background check and issue the card. At $17 per year, almost anyone flying can decide whether this service is worth the cost. If we want to talk about unfair privileges at airports, let’s talk about racial profiling, airline status, first class seats, lounges, early boarding, free upgrades, expensive parking, expensive food, and other privileges.

  23. Occupationalhazard

    September 12, 2019 at 7:55 am

    He must *love* CLEAR.

  24. SGooMicrorat

    September 12, 2019 at 7:57 am

    So, ignoring the class stuff and “security theater” stuff – why *isn’t* Pre-Check free?

    Think about it: One, it probably saves money in the long run by reducing staffing and equipment needs at airports. Two, in theory it makes us safer to have more people signed up. The whole point is that we’re safest of all if we know a flyer is who they say they are and we’ve interviewed them for those intangible “red flags,” same principle as the Known Crewmember program. Then TSA can focus more attention on the dwindling folks who either don’t sign up or fail the vet.

    So I say again – if this isn’t all just theater, why isn’t Pre-Check free?

  25. sfoeuroflyer

    September 12, 2019 at 9:46 am

    Is there no end to carping, envy, etc from the political left. There is more to TSA Pre-check than the cost. The background check is extensive. If you fly a lot, it is worth the cost and it is open for anyone to apply (assuming that person passes the background check). So what is this VOX moron complaining about? That he does not want to spend the money? I bet he grinds his teeth to find out that some people pay more money to fly first class or business class. Or that somebody has a bigger house. But I have a proposition to make to this member of the Grievance Industrial Complex: if you want everything equal for everybody….make everyone pay the exact same amount in taxes.

  26. SpartyAir

    September 12, 2019 at 10:33 am

    edgewood49, do you know what sarcasm is? Reread jtrsss524’s post.

  27. bodaniel

    September 12, 2019 at 11:36 am

    Here’s what I don’t understand about this TSA Pre-Check deal unless someone can explain it to me. Almost every U.S. state now offers their residents the opportunity to acquire a driver’s license with a REAL ID certification. In my state it doesn’t cost any more $$ than obtaining a regular driver’s license with the annoying exception of having to stand in line at the local DMV office for 2-3 hours instead of being able to order it online like the rest of the world does business (but that’s another issue). Going through this process is supposed to ensure that the person has gone through a minimum security standards review and their background check has been verified by the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security. As we all know a U.S. citizen will be required to have a REAL ID logo on their driver’s license to pass through security in all airports starting October 1, 2020 (unless of course they have a valid U.S. passport). Therefore, if someone has a valid driver’s license with a REAL ID certification then why do we need this TSA Pre-Check, CLEAR and whatever other nonsense airport security clearance company memberships that are out there to be able to allow us to walk quickly through a dedicated security line at the airport and not take off half of our clothes? Is TSA Pre-Check and all these other organizations just another ignorant tax like the lottery that are set up to bleed us for more dollars out of our pocket? Why doesn’t all of the fees that we pay every time we buy an airline ticket cover the expenses for TSA Pre-Check personnel and equipment? Is this $85 charge another way to supplement wages for a TSA person’s job when the federal tax dollars we already pay should be covering their wages? My REAL ID driver’s license is valid for 8 years. Why is the TSA Pre-Check membership only valid for 5 years? I understand that not every U.S. citizen drives a car and therefore, won’t be able to obtain a driver’s license for various reasons that have this REAL ID certification but for those who do that have the REAL ID why does our government make us pay even more money if we want to go through a un-hassled security line at the airport so that we can get to our gate as quickly as possible? I agree that I’m not forced to pay for this service but I have to leave home 3-4 hours before my flight just in case the regular security line at the airport is packed with screaming babies, senior citizens who can’t move very fast (BTW – I’m not making fun of these people because one day it will be me), little children who run around to cause chaos without any proper parent discipline and those who can’t seem to figure out the basic understanding of what needs to be placed on the conveyor belt before going through the security scanner which causes it to go off multiple times that delays those in line even further behind them. Maybe this is just my opinion but it seems like some folks are essentially just trying to profit more off of the added security this country now requires at our airports since the unfortunate events of 9/11. Unfortunately, just like everything else in this world those who pay more money for things seem to always receive the privilege of being treated better and have to deal with fewer hassles. Very sad but that’s life I guess. One more thing….I laugh about every time someone asks me about how wonderful it is to travel when I go on a business trip. They seemed to forget how it’s come to the point for all of us (except those privileged few who have paid the additional $$ for TSA Pre-Check) where we’re almost always herded like cattle at a Texas stampede while trying to get to our gate at the airport.

  28. Brucemcdou

    September 12, 2019 at 1:13 pm

    If the actual substantive comment is that a government service used by only some citizens should be provided for “free” (ignoring taxes paid by that citizen) then I’d point to obtaining a passport, getting a drivers license, entrance fee to a National Park, getting a building permit, etc. etc. etc. What a non-issue.

  29. johnwb

    September 12, 2019 at 2:13 pm

    If the purpose of pre-check is to enhance security then it should be free, period. In order for TSA agents to focus their more intense screening on higher risk travellers we want all low-risk passengers to receive less screening, not just those low-risk passengers who are willing to pay.

    Using an airline lounge or a priority line are privileges for which one ought to be able to pay extra. Receiving less screening than others is not a privilege, it’s a simple matter of security – for everyone.

  30. jrich7970

    September 12, 2019 at 8:15 pm

    Regarding Pre-Check at all….Why do people who have an existing security clearance have to go through the rigamarole of obtaining Pre-Check as well? It’s all about the money.

  31. jrpallante

    September 13, 2019 at 7:29 am

    Wow! I consider myself somewhat of a comedy junkie, yet I have never heard of Josh. Maybe because he’s not very funny? As they say, it’s only funny if there is some truth to it.

  32. Paplover

    September 13, 2019 at 1:22 pm

    bodaniel – REALID just checks that you are who you say you are, documents are things like birth certificate, passport, utility bills, etc. NO background or criminal check. That is what TSA PreCheck does, it verifies you are not considered to be a threat. Big difference between proving who you are for REALID versus a TSA PreCheck criminal background check.

  33. AlohaDaveKennedy


    September 14, 2019 at 6:56 am

    Just another lefty complaining about Flight Priviledge. Get over it – some people, including the elderly, can benefit from expedited security clearance.

  34. aristotled


    September 14, 2019 at 10:35 am

    pfftt… precheck isn’t even CLOSE to CLEAR! We love both and it’s not a privilege, get over all this privilege bs already. if you can afford a bottle of water, then you can afford both PC and CLEAR. make up your mind where your priorities are and what your time is worth. We walk past people like this unknown comic in lines hundreds long in most airports and breeze through security because PC and CLEAR work. splendidly even. pfftt. lol

  35. YogiB

    September 16, 2019 at 5:10 am

    TSA PreCheck starts at 10$/year. (Included with Nexus, which is $50/5y. You could even pay it in CA$ to save more.)
    It’s the price of 2 bottles of water at the airport.
    You don’t have a piece of checked luggage for that price.
    If you can’t afford this, you can’t afford to fly at all.

  36. YogiB

    September 16, 2019 at 5:19 am

    Actually, let’s turn it around: what would be a better investment? 50$-85$/5y for a trusted-traveller program? Or a ticket for one of his shows, at least the same price, if not more, that lasts maybe 1.5h?
    Let’s talk about theatre tickets that are only affordable for some priviledged wealthy people, while theatre should be accessible for all?

  37. Jim29585

    September 17, 2019 at 7:00 am

    If you’re going to spend $85 for TSAPrecheck and travel internationally spend an extra $15 and get Global Entry instead. That $100 gets you a speed pass through immigration and you get TSAPrecheck included. Both good for 5 years.

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