Only half of Americans say TSA screening makes flying safer

TSA's PreCheck program enables fliers who voluntarily offer background information access to a faster screening line.
TSA’s PreCheck program enables fliers who voluntarily offer background information access to a faster screening line.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Americans are split on whether airport screening lines make air travel safer.

But at the same time, a majority of American adults worry that faster screening lines for travelers who submit background information might jeopardize airline safety.

The latest measure of the public’s attitute on airport security came from a poll of 2,234 adults in the U.S. by the Harris Poll.

It comes only days after a teenage boy slipped undetected onto a Maui-bound jet at Mineta San Jose International Airport.


Half of those who took the poll said the security screening procedures by the Transportation Security Administration make air travel safer. That rate rises to 57% among those who have taken more than five trips in the last year, according to the poll.

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But Americans have mixed opinions about TSA’s PreCheck program, which enables travelers who submit background information to the government to go through special screening lines without removing their shoes, belts or coats and leaving laptop computers in carry-on bags.

An overwhelming majority (79%) said the lines make airport screening faster. But 68% said the TSA may be missing potential threats by enabling some passengers to zip through the faster lines.

As for screeners, an overwhelming majority (81%) say TSA screeners don’t have to have a college education or any law enforcement experience (63%). But most Americans say a person who has been disciplined for misconduct in a previous job or been convicted of driving under the influence or any nonviolent crime should not be a TSA screener, the poll said.

Travelers can apply for PreCheck through one of three of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol’s trusted traveler programs (Global Entry, Nexus and Sentri). The other way to apply for PreCheck is through a loyalty rewards program from one of nine airlines: JetBlue, Alaska, American, Delta, Hawaiian, Southwest, United, US Airways and Virgin America.


Travelers who are not members of loyalty programs can also apply for PreCheck at one of several hundred application centers. Applicants must fill out a form and provide fingerprints and an $85 nonrefundable fee.


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