TSA Could Waive $85 PreCheck Fee And Save Millions

That's not even getting into how much time it would save you

Hell, pictured above. — REUTERS/Larry Downing
Dec 06, 2016 at 10:38 AM ET

Few experiences are more tormenting than being screened by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) before you can board a plane. Maybe dogsitting Cujo, or having to explain to your mother what or who “Booty Call Bae” is on your phone, but still.

TSA’s PreCheck list, a background check program that vets travelers in exchange for a quick and easy security line once they’re at airport, is designed to minimize the pain. But a trio of scientists at the University of Illinois thinks the program could be even more effective that it is.

In a recent study published late last month in the Journal of Transportation Security, the group ran the numbers on what would happen if TSA waived the current $85 PreCheck fee. They estimated that the move would pay for itself in five years time by reducing costs in labor and equipment, dumping money into the agency’s piggy bank from then on.

“This is an easy case where spending some money will save the federal government more money,” said lead author Sheldon H. Jacobson, a professor in the university’s computer science department, in a statement. “So if the federal government is looking for a way to save money, giving TSA PreCheck at no cost to high-volume, high-value fliers makes sense.”

Testing out different scenarios, Jacobson and his team found that for the TSA to save money by waiving the $85 fee, the average PreCheck traveler would need to take six round trips a year. But that’s only from the TSA’s perspective.

“We only look at the direct cost savings in labor and equipment. We don’t even talk about the savings in time of the passengers who would no longer have to wait hours in line,” Jacobson said. “That could add tens or hundreds of millions of dollars a year, which would be a bonus to the economy. More people could decide to fly, because of the time and cost savings.”

Given that critics and even former TSA agents have said that airport screenings are not only costly and infuriating, but also useless at actually protecting people, it seems that any change may be worth a shot.