I crossed my fingers on the way to the airport this morning. Today was the day Dulles airport had announced that TSA Pre-Check would launch.
The airport had blown through the first deadline they established to have security open upstairs, so it wasn’t entirely clear to me that they would make today’s deadline.
So I was pleasantly surprised when I headed upstairs this morning and saw the lights were on in the Pre-Check area. Now, it was pretty early and still dark out, so I had to get a bit closer before I realized they were employees and not contractors finishing work.
TSA’s never been wild about pictures while you’re inside the check-point, so nothing there to show. It was a normal TSA check-point with just a plain ‘ol metal detector to walk through. TSA has learned as they’ve rolled out Pre-Check elsewhere, so there’s a bit more signage guiding you as to what you do (and don’t) have to do. Essentially, you don’t have to do much of anything. Belt and shoes stay on, liquids and laptops stay in the bag. It’s pretty awesome.
20 seconds later after I was through security I stopped to talk to one of the suits observing. It was obvious this was day 1, as there were a lotof suits.
They were just about as happy as I was to see Pre-Check. They even let me know that I was the 6th customer to enter the lane on the first day. I guess 5 people got up earlier than I did, poor guys.
The nice thing about this Pre-Check area is it’s not just one lane. As you can see from this not-so-wonderful picture from the back, there are two x-ray machines and two metal detectors.
Now, I’m not one of those people that hates the TSA and the nude-a-scopes. I consider flying a privilege, not a right. And, while I don’t like cavity searches, I’m more than happy to let TSA search me in most any way they see fit. But, I respect the view of those people that hate the process.
And, I have good news to report for those folks. If you don’t get selected for Pre-Check, there’s another lane right beside Pre-Check on the upper level. It has NO nude-a-scope, so it’s just like old-time security. Essentially, what TSA is saying is that if you’re in the Pre-Check program but not selected for Pre-Check on a given day, they’re still going to take it easy on you at Dulles. A welcome thought for those that hate the nude-a-scope.
BTW, T-minus on how long it takes Gary to comment on why TSA still sucks.
Finally, as expected, the Pre-Check lets you out into the upper area where the food court used to be at IAD, right at the top of the escalator that heads down to the new train area.
This works out well, in that while it’s a bit more inconvenient to come upstairs for those of us using the old Dulles Diamond checkpoint, it’s still an easy escalator ride down to the same place. And a much more pleasant security experience.
The stress relief of the Pre-Check process is worth paying for. And, although you can’t pay for it directly, you can sign up for Global Entry which gives you access to Pre-Check. I think of it like the roll-out for EZ Pass in NYC. The authority rolled out EZ-Pass on bridges by converting ALLlanes except for one to EZ Pass, leaving one cash lane. If you were an early adopter of EZ Pass, you had a great experience, no waiting. If you decided to pay cash, that was your right. You just really didn’t enjoy the experience.
Here’s hoping there’s a great Pre-Check experience in your future. Hope to see you there, as long as you don’t slow down my lane!