Thousands of fliers enrolled in trusted traveler programs such as PreCheck aren’t getting the expedited screening they paid for because of clerical errors with their reservations.
The most common problem is that their date of birth or government “known traveler number” has been entered incorrectly into a reservation. Other times, the name on the itinerary doesn’t match the name used to enroll in PreCheck, Global Entry or one of the other government programs.
This is particularly a problem when bookings are made through travel agents who might transpose information, airlines say.
There have always been issues matching passenger data but with recent long lines at Transportation Security Administration checkpoints leading to a spike in PreCheck enrollments, there are now more data problems too.
The TSA and some airlines are responding, trying to catch these problems long before passenger arrive at the airport.
The TSA has started to help travelers through a new Twitter channel launched last fall called @AskTSA.
“The earlier you know about the issue, the more time our team has to resolve the problem,” says Jennifer Plozai, director of external communications with the TSA, who manages the @AskTSA social media program.
Passengers who don’t check in until they arrive at the airport have little time to fix any problems. Fliers only know that they have PreCheck once a boarding pass is generated.
Staff at the TSA’s Transportation Security Operation Center in Herndon, Virginia assist fliers who reach out through a direct message to @AskTSA. That staff then work with airlines to rectify the mismatched information in a reservation.
Plozai says the most common issues revolve around known traveler numbers, or KTNs. These are the unique numbers members are given once a traveler is confirmed in a trusteed traveler program.
Fliers enrolled through Global Entry or other Customs and Border Protection programs will have a nine-digit number, most likely beginning with “98″ — such as 981234567. Those who enrolled directly in PreCheck with have nine letters or digits beginning with “TT” — such as TT1234ABC.
This number needs to be put in the “known traveler” space on a reservation, not in the “redress number” space.
American Airlines has taken the unusual step of vetting all passengers with a known traveler number in their AAdvantage frequent flier profile or reservation through TSA databases 72 hours prior to departure. If those travelers aren’t granted PreCheck in the test run, American sends them an email notifying them of the mismatch and to double check the information.
The first email was sent June 16. During the first week running the system, messages were sent to 11,683 passengers, according to airline spokesman Ross Feinstein. Many of the problems stem from travel agencies who incorrectly copy the traveler’s information. Even if a flier’s AAdvantage profile has the correct information, the booking is based on data submitted by the travel agency, Feinstein says.
“With more and more people applying for TSA PreCheck each day, we have seen many participants who are not receiving TSA PreCheck due to errors,” Feinstein says.
None of the other major carriers are reaching out proactively to customers. Delta Air Lines spokesman Morgan Durrant, for instance, says that passengers have “the best chance of success” in fixing the problem more than 24 hours in advance.
Other airlines say they aren’t seeing as many issues.
Southwest Airlines spokesman Brad Hawkins says because most of the airline’s passengers book directly with the carrier, there haven’t been problems. United spokesman Charles Hobart says that “we haven’t seen a significant number of issues with the topic.”
If there is a problem, first go to www.dhs.gov/tt, choose your trusted traveler program and log in. Verify your known traveler number, your name, date of birth and gender.
If that is all correct, then verify with the airline that it has all the information correct. Unless the flier has had a disqualifying criminal offense, PreCheck should be granted on a boarding pass almost every time they fly.