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Travel

What to do when TSA PreCheck doesn’t seem to work

TSA

Having a Known Traveler Number can earn PreCheck benefits for travelers -- but to ensure it’ll work, you need to pay attention to details when booking.

(Scott Olson / Getty Images)

I finally applied for and received a Known Traveler Number [from the Transportation Security Administration] as did my wife. On a recent trip, she sailed through each leg with her PreCheck status, but my boarding pass did not identify me as such. I realize that being issued a TSA PreCheck number does not guarantee that I get PreCheck benefits, but I was also searched each time. I shudder to think what my next business trip will be like if I continue to use my KTN.

S. Dobbins

Los Angeles

Answer: Here’s a similar issue that another Southern Californian told me about:

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He’s a member of the military, and by using his Department of Defense identification number when he made his airline reservation, he should have been getting PreCheck, the fast-pass through security that lets you leave on your shoes and jacket, keep your laptop in its appointed place and carry your three ounces of liquids in your hand luggage without removing them.

Except that he wasn’t getting PreCheck on his printed boarding pass. His wife was, but he wasn’t and he was annoyed.

Upon investigation, he found that he had entered his identification number incorrectly.

“I’m an experienced traveler,” he said. “You’d think I’d know better.”

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That chagrin was amplified because the man in this anecdote is Nico Melendez, a TSA representative who has been with the agency since its inception.

We hear from readers from time to time who have had issues getting PreCheck to work for them. They have paid their $85 for five years ($100 if you go through Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry program), and they’ve gone through the interview process, but the magic TSA PRE does not show up on their boarding passes.

I asked Melendez to outline some issues that can trip you up — and how you can address them. (He also noted that being searched was probably not related.) Among those he cited:

—You haven’t entered your KTN in your airline reservation. A reader recently wrote to say that he had paid for PreCheck and had never gotten it. I asked him whether he had entered it on his reservation, and he said, “You have to do that?”

Yes, you do. If you don’t have a profile with a carrier — if you’re not a member of a frequent-flier program — you’ll probably need to enter it each time.

—You used a travel agent. Using a travel agent isn’t a causative unless, of course, you forgot to tell him or her that you have such a number and asked to have it included.

—You’ve entered your number incorrectly (or your travel agent has or whomever you’ve designated to make your reservation has). Check and recheck your PreCheck number; it could save you some trouble.

—You’ve bought your ticket by phone, and the reservations agent made a mistake by spelling your name Chris when your name is Cris. TSA has told me that a name that’s misspelled by a letter or two probably won’t stop you from getting through security, but it can stop you from getting PreCheck. Likewise, if you use a middle name or a professional name, make sure everything matches — your government-issued ID, your reservation and the name on your PreCheck profile.

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—Your designated ticket buyer entered your date of birth incorrectly (or you did). I always double-check with my husband on his DOB, which elicits interesting conversations about dyslexia, disrespect and so on. But I just want to be sure.

Many other permutations of these scenarios can occur, but you get the idea.

Your first move, if you see your boarding pass doesn’t say TSA PRE, is to call your airline, Melendez said, to try to figure out the source of the issue.

A boarding pass can be reissued, he said. (I didn’t know this, but on a recent flight my PreCheck number was missing because the ticket agent — I reserved by phone — didn’t include it. I’d rather eat ground glass than go through the security cha-cha, so I stood in line to ask an agent to add my fast-pass number to my boarding pass; she complied and I sailed through.)

If the problem is not with the airline or the information, contact TSA. You can email it at www.tsa.gov/contact/contact-center or call (866) 289-9673 from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. Pacific Time on weekdays and 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends Pacific Time. You also can tweet to @AskTSA. I just did and heard back within 10 minutes.

Dobbins deserves to get what he paid for — which is less hassle through security. Here, people will say, “But why should I have to pay not to get hassled?” That’s another conversation, often one that becomes heated and ugly.

If I want heated and ugly, I’ll try talking politics with certain folks, all the while wishing there were a PreCheckYourMouth option. Eighty-five bucks for their silence would seem like a bargain.

Have a travel dilemma? Write to travel@latimes.com. We regret we cannot answer every inquiry.

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