TSA says incoming PreCheck data might contain errors

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The Transportation Security Administration is advising the growing number of participants in its expedited screening program that they might need to check with third-party booking agents and airlines to ensure that their personal data is correct.

Booking agents and airline data systems can sometimes inadvertently short-circuit the transfer of personal data that TSA uses to link participants to the Known Traveler Numbers (KTNs) assigned by its PreCheck program, according to TSA officials.

Since it opened a new $85 application option, the agency has seen a slight uptick in complaints via social media from PreCheck participants who were denied access to prescreened security lanes at airports, a TSA spokesman said in an interview with FCW.

Previously, PreCheck participants entered through other agencies' prescreening programs, such as Customs and Border Protection's Global Entry and SENTRI. Those two programs, however, require travelers to have passports. TSA's PreCheck does not require passports because only about 30 percent of U.S. domestic travelers have them, the spokesman said.

Since TSA offered the new option, the agency has added about 300,000 passengers to the PreCheck program, the spokesman said. The program requires passengers to provide name, date of birth and gender, at a minimum. The airlines are responsible for managing and transmitting travelers' information to TSA before flights depart.

Sometimes information fields are mismatched, data is entered in the wrong slot, or other issues occur that prevent the KTN from being transmitted to TSA correctly and keep travelers from accessing the PreCheck lanes at airports. In a June 6 blog post, TSA Press Secretary Ross Feinstein advised travelers to contact airlines or travel agents to correct the data.

Furthermore, "we have learned that TSA Pre-Check travelers who receive their KTN only add it directly to their frequent flier profile," Feinstein wrote in the blog post. "You may think you are all set, but more may be required to be eligible for TSA PreCheck on your next flight."

Feinstein explained that if fliers add their KTN to their airline's frequent flier profile after they have booked reservations, their profile won't update the previous reservations. In addition, if participants make reservations through a third-party website rather than the airlines' website or through a travel agency, the KTN sometimes is not transmitted to the airline, which means it won't be transmitted to TSA.

Although Feinstein recommended that travelers work with airlines directly to resolve any issues, he said passengers can contact TSA via social media as a last resort and added that the agency can sometimes spot spelling errors, erroneous data entry and other issues, and then notify travelers.

"We recommend that when in doubt, call your air carrier to verify that your Secure Flight data matches and make any corrections," Feinstein wrote. "Verify that the airline has your first/middle/last name and correct date of birth exactly as you applied and/or received your KTN."

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.

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Reader comments

Tue, Jun 10, 2014 Bryan California

Hi, Abenet. I had the same thing happen to me about 8 days ago. I was flying out of LAX Los Angeles International Airport with Delta Airlines. I was pointed into a separate line (which I learned later was the TSA Pre✅ line) from my parents and the rest of my family; I had no idea what was going on. My parents were telling me all the things to remember: Take your belt off. Take your coat off. Take your shoes off. Make your shampoo/bathroom bag available to take out for the security. Then I just went right through; I didn't have to take off my shoes or anything out of my bag. This is the first time I've been on a plane / through airport security (except once when I was like 3-4 years old). Tomorrow I am flying back to LA (with a layover in Detroit) and neither of the boarding passes contain the TSA Pre✅ Logo. Is this just a bug in Delta's system? Are they just handing out TSA Pre✅ To random individuals? If this happened to me, this could happen to anybody else. Somebody perhaps more, I don't know, dangerous...

Tue, Jun 10, 2014 Abenet Essayas

I was traveling from DC to Chicago and 5 days later from to Chicago to DC. On my way back I passed security line without being checked properly, no taking out shoes,no body check up or my handbag check. One guy said it is because you are TSAPre. How did I become one, nobody knows, I did not know anything about it, neither did I apply for any of that . It was written on my card, how by who I have no clue. I still do not have any idea . Please someone explain

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