As a frequent flyer, I log quite a few flights over the course of a year, domestically and internationally. One thing I never look forward to is the onerous security process at airports. In fact, I find it burdensome and it is one of the greatest reasons I prefer to drive rather than fly, when the option is available. Lately, however, I have been flagged on several occasions for the TSA Pre-check line which, in theory, does NOT require you to remove your belt, shoes, lighter outerwear, or a 3-1-1 compliant bag and laptop from your carry-on. I am also told that the TSA Pre-check means shorter lines and wait times, quicker transit, and supposedly improved customer service.
Unfortunately, I now know that TSA Pre-check does not work for travelers with metal implants and if you are flagged for the TSA Pre-check, you are actually better off refusing to go through the expedited process. Here’s why: On three different occasions and at three different airports I was told to go through TSA Pre-check line which in every instance had the cheaper metal detector gate as opposed to the more expensive full-body scan machine usually reserved for the regular lines. Though I declared I had a metal implant, I was still told by TSA to go through the Pre-check. The obvious predictably happened each time and the metal detector declared me a "FAIL." In each instance I was then told to remove my jacket and shoes, and to put my toiletries and computer in the bin. In one case, I was even required to have a pat down. The net result is that the Pre-check was more time-consuming for me.
So, knowing I have an implant, why doesn't TSA just allow me to go through the regular security line, or a Premiere line for frequent flyers when I am entitled to? Unfortunately, TSA doesn’t seem to have consistent standard procedures regarding metal implant travelers.
For example, on my most recent security Pre-check at Albuquerque International Airport, I opted to stand in the regular security line since that line had the full-body scan. The Pre-check line only had the metal-detector gate, which I knew, would be triggered by my metal implant. Once I made it to the check-point however, the TSA agent told me that I had to go through the Pre-check line and that it was not an option for me. I explained about my metal implant whereupon he curtly told me it didn’t matter. So, I picked up all my carry-on items and then went to stand in yet another line – this one being the Pre-check. After predictably setting off the metal detector, I was told to take my shoes and jacket off and to put my toiletries and computer in the bin. Then, when I went through the gate and was on the other side of the detector, I was subjected to a pat down.
After explaining my predicament to the TSA agent, he told me that in the future I could refuse the Pre-check line option. I mentioned to him that the other TSA agent at the regular security line check-point told me I couldn’t. His advice was to just ignore the other agent. Seems like a Catch-22.