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TSA at US airports

I will be flying out of Chicago Midway, San Francisco (SFO) and Phoenix, all on Southwest. When I heard about the horrid lines for security, I scheduled an appointment for TSA pre-check for this Friday.

Has anyone flown recently from them? Are the lines "normal" - in May people said it often took 2-3 hours to get through TSA and people were missing their flights because of it.

Posted by
1068 posts

You can go here. Check the name of the airport..... although reported by flyers and not TSA, security wait line times can give you pretty good insight.

Posted by
15651 posts

That link only gave me wait times for TSA pre-check, which I expect will be fairly quick. I'm debating whether to apply for it, so I am asking for information on the "regular" TSA lines.

Posted by
3202 posts

Click on the "check security wait times" in the blue section. Opens a new window with more info.

Posted by
1068 posts

What data shows up depends on who posts. For example, I just checked PDX and while most of the posts were for precheck, some were regular. The data strictly depends on who wants to report it and what line they are in. Last month I flew BA which does not do TSA precheck and still got some good data about lines.

Posted by
15580 posts

While I can't report on those three airports, I can give you my experience from Friday.

I flew out of LAX in the morning.

Regular TSA had a massive line. Delta Sky Priority had about 40 people on it. TSA Precheck, which I used, had three people ahead of me. I was through in less than 5 minutes.

TSA Precheck is so worth it.

Posted by
15651 posts

Okay, maybe when it shows "TSA pre-check" that's just the logo, and not specific to pre-check lines?

I had heard that the situation has improved a lot. Maybe it's not so bad now.

Posted by
9363 posts

A friend flew out of Midway the other day. She said they were through security and to their gate in less than an hour.

Posted by
2529 posts

An hour to get through security and to a gate at Midway Airport! That's a testimonial to the value of Global Entry...very happy to have it.

Posted by
23443 posts

If you qualify I would apply for Global Entry and not just Pre-check. Pre-check is included with Global Entry.

Posted by
102 posts

Just an FYI, I had a friend report recently that at a Florida airport (Tampa?) the pre-check people all ended up in the regular security line because there weren't enough security personnel to have the pre-check line open. She waited quite awhile and was very unhappy.

When I flew out of Oakland recently a similar thing happened except the security personnel took the pre-check people sort of to the head of the not-very-long line so it did save them a few minutes. (And made some of the other people waiting quite unhappy--I'm not sure if they understood about pre-check.)

Posted by
6364 posts

Twice this last year we couldn't take advantage of Pre-Check: the first time was at Phoenix Sky Harbor, where the pre-check line closed as we headed towards it. The second was at DFW coming home from London; for some reason our boarding passes were not marked with the pre-check logo. Stuff happens.

Posted by
14580 posts

Hi,

I don't think SFO is that bad regarding TSA. Or, it is just routine which I've gotten used to. One time some of the TSA ticked me off but it was not directed at me personally but rather the atmosphere created by them. . The lines seem "normal" to me. One does move through them quickly. TSA staff tell which line to go so that it's expedited. I've had on transatlantic flights the regular treatment and the Pre-Check, which the latter obviously is quicker and less hassle. I flew out of SFO on 24 May 2016 to FRA...lines moved apace, as usual.

Posted by
15580 posts

Chani, If your boarding pass says TSA Precheck you have it. You don't necessarily have to sign up to get it. Two of my cousins got it last week even though they never signed up. It's random.

If you sign up, it's likely you will get it each time you fly. In fact, American Airlines so wants to make sure their passengers who have trusted traveler numbers get Pre-Check they do dummy boarding passes a couple of days before flights to make sure those passengers who should get it do so. If not, the airline contacts the passenger to make sure they have entered their number correctly.

Posted by
9363 posts

I think Bruce misunderstood. My friend's flight was out of Midway, not into, so it had nothing to do with Global Entry. They weren't even flying internationally. I was just saying that they found no problem in getting through security and to their gate without the two to three hour wait that Chani had heard mentioned. Since their whole process, from door to gate, took less than an hour, the security portion could only have taken a few minutes.

Posted by
2529 posts

As was stated, "A friend flew out of Midway the other day. She said they were through security and to their gate in less than an hour." I mistook the simple meaning of the statement. Apparently, that's not the case and the security portion was quickly accomplished. I do like Global Entry which includes PreCheck.

Posted by
15651 posts

Thanks, everyone. I appreciate it. I've decided to cancel my TSA appt. I don't fly enough to make it worthwhile, then.

Posted by
489 posts

Have flown out of Midway numerous times this year and also Ohare in May. After that fiasco in May, they did some serious looking at the problem. Now, we flew out between Christmas and New Years from Midway when a few days before the flights were shut down, so the crowd was full since flights had resumed and we may have waited 30 min (no tsa pre that time) Southwest Airlines was giving random tsa pre boarding passes at one time. I really have no explanation for the midway lines in May...

but less than one week later from the long lines at Midway and O'hare, I was flying on United from O'hare and got to the airport rediculously early (4 hrs) for an international flight, only to find I got a random tsa pre stamped on my boarding pass... 5 min later ...So Hello airport bar! And the wait but it was with a cold drink and getting to know other travelers.

I believe that TSA is pushing people to get this Global or TSA pre for the income. Let them. I don't mind chatting with the people in line to go thru security.

Coming up will be our 5th trip to Europe in 2 yrs. No Global or TSA Pre... We've lived in Asia before and during 9/11 and waiting in the queue is just part of the travel experience, as long as it isn't over 30 min. haha.
Happy Travels.

Posted by
15651 posts

Here's my update. I cancelled my appointment with TSA. When I checked in online for my SW flight from MDW to SFO, I was surprised and pleased to see that I'd been "awarded" TSA pre-check. I got to MDW about 5.30 a.m on Wednesday 2 weeks ago. The regular TSA lines were moving quickly and it looked like there were no more than about 8 or 10 people actually waiting to go through the machines at any of the stations - seemed to be quite a few in operation and the staff were moving people through quickly. I had about 6-8 minutes wait in the pre-check lines (there were 2), so a long time in the terminal afterward.

Then I got pre-check on my boarding pass from SFO to Phoenix. The flight was at 11 a.m. last Thursday. I got to the airport at 9 a.m., took just a couple minutes to return the rental car and get to the terminal, and no lines at all at security - pre-check or "regular."

I'm flying from Phoenix to MDW this evening and again I got TSA pre-check.

I am now hoping that there will be short security lines at ORD international in 2 weeks when I fly home on Turkish Air. I'm also hoping that things will be quiet in Turkey for the foreseeable future. The coup attempt began less than 24 hours after I left IST to ORD!

Posted by
15651 posts

Yes, I know that TSA pre-check was awarded on a flight-by-flight basis. I guess I just got lucky with all three flights.

I'm only worried about the TSA line at O'Hare Int'l. In fact, I had no line when I entered the U.S. at O'Hare 3 weeks ago. There were a couple of staff encouraging people to use the new machines and no lines, then there was only one person ahead of me for the passport officer and no line to go through customs.

Posted by
2455 posts

Just this minute wrote you a message, Chani.
At the end of this month, I fly from Monterey CA through San Francisco Airport and on to Frankfurt. I have a connection time of just 1 hour 25 minutes at SFO. United customer service told me that is enough time if my first flight arrives on time. Does anyone know, can I go from the domestic to international terminal at SFO and stay within the secure zone? United customer service did not know. Seems to me I will need to go through security again before boarding an international flight, no? I should be fretting the connection, no?

Posted by
489 posts

Larry and Chani,

Larry... if United tells you they can do it and it is a term I just learned from my travel agent (I only use her for some international flights) called "Legal" then the airline will do all they can if you miss your flight.. perhaps even hold a flight if enough others can't make the transfer.. This does not mean you can dilly dally in the airport.. I would know exactly where you are going and hustle. (experience in Heathrow- of which I now hate with a passion!)

Chani...
You'll be flying out of the International terminal 5 at O'hare it is a much smaller terminal and on turkish air (I bet it is a 9:30 PM departure) we'll be on that one flight daily next month... The airport should be a bit quieter at that time. Flew out about that time to Greece a year ago and was one of the last flights.. I wasn't sure if you are connecting thru O'hare, but if you are... then you have to move from another terminal via a train, not a big deal.. free. The best thing to do is don't guess, but ask.. We in the midwest are friendly and helpful.. Love the people who work at O'hare.. Just smile and ask.

Posted by
14580 posts

I've had TSA pre-check with Southwest...very nice, more than once too, just by chance since I didn't anything extra or different either

Posted by
8600 posts

The TSA lines went away when Congress came up with the money for overtime, and for hiring to replace the hundreds of officers that were not replaced last year in order to deal with budget cuts from last year's budget fight. If it happens again this year, who knows what to expect.

Posted by
2455 posts

Thanks to this forum discussion, I have just now done some research on SFO, and it appears that United domestic flights arrive at Terminal 3, and from there you can go directly into the International Terminal without leaving the secure area, therefore hopefully avoiding another TSA line and potential delay. I hope, I hope.

Posted by
10311 posts

With the new machines and app at US passport control, I've decided not to get Global Entry. I had been putting it off since the closest center for an interview is 2.5 hours each way from home, and now after using the machines, I've decided it's not worth it for me. As for pre-check, age must have its advantages because I've been getting it nine times out of ten since it began a few years ago.

Posted by
15651 posts

Thanks, tgreen. I've flown international out of O'Hare every couple of years, always 8-9 p.m. flights and never any line, though I'm always there hours ahead. Yes, it's the 9.30 flight and I'll be going to the airport on city streets with friends who are hosting me in Chicago. He used to work at the airport, so the only problem is getting to/from the Int'l terminal - we always take the wrong entrance/exit and end up driving an extra 5-10 minutes arriving or 15 minutes or more leaving. That's why I love MDW.

Larry - what's your inbound connection? It took over half an hour for luggage to start coming on the carousel at SFO on my domestic flight, and I have vague memories of long waits when arriving at international. My Bay Area friends said SFO is always slow unloading.

Posted by
14580 posts

Re: slow unloading the baggage at SFO ,,, I would say generally that's the case, more often than not.

Posted by
393 posts

In 1995 I flew into Tel Aviv for a business trip. Two security guards who looked no older than high school students asked me quite a few questions. When I said it was a business trip, they asked for proof. Having been forewarned by my colleagues who had taken the same trip, I was prepared and produced a letter of invitation from the local company. After two days of stay, Rabin was assassinated and armed soldiers were on the streets. My colleagues and I were really worried about leaving, but did not encounter any problem.

Question for Chani. The Tel Aviv airport has always been reputed to be very secure. What makes it so secure (as compared to other airports), and what is the security check process like these days?