Let the record show: I do this all the time. Are we jerks? In my opinion, it depends on your partner.
If you don’t know, PreCheck is a pre-clearance program from the Transportation Security Administration. Enrolling gets you access to a separate, faster-moving line where passengers don’t have to remove their shoes or take electronics out of their bags. TSA says 99 percent of passengers get through the security line in 10 minutes or less.
My fiancé submitted his TSA PreCheck application months ago but hasn’t gone for his interview; with a smartphone and audiobook, he really doesn’t hate waiting in lines. So I’m like you; 90 percent of the time we split and reconnect at the gate.
“There are ways to be the good guy in that situation,” Dallas-based etiquette columnist Heather Wiese told me. “I don’t see that you’re a jerk unless you handle it like a jerk.”
If you’re asking your girlfriend if she minds, and you offer to buy her a beer, it sounds like you’re passing Wiese’s jerk test. If you yell “smell ya later loser!” and bail, that’s a different story.
Thomas Farley, a New York City etiquette expert known as Mister Manners, had a similar take. Unless your travel companion is a minor in your care or someone who needs assistance getting through the process, you don’t need to stay with them through TSA purgatory.
“I would not feel terribly guilty about going through security on my own,” Farley said, particularly if your partner keeps shirking the opportunity to get PreCheck, and you’ve offered to sweeten the deal with a beer or coffee.
Farley said a workaround to your dilemma would be to make a TSA checkpoint timed reservation if the service is available at the airport you’re visiting. That way you both stay in the same line but neither of you have to languish very long. You could do something similar with other line-cutting services such as Perq Soleil, which, for a couple hundred bucks, gets you through the airport with the same speed and concierge luxuries as a celebrity. (Of course, getting her PreCheck membership would be the cheapest, easiest option).
The last person I gut-checked with was TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein.
“I think that’s a question for Miss Manners,” she said. “But it’s probably better for both of them if they’re enrolled in TSA PreCheck.”
Farbstein did suggest you transform the PreCheck application process into a romantic gesture — maybe even a Valentine’s Day gift. You could sit down with her for the 10 minutes it takes to pre-enroll online, pay for the fee, escort her to the interview appointment and then take her out to lunch or dinner afterward.
“It’s kind of a fun thing to do, in all seriousness,” Farbstein said. “I even went with my wife when she had her PreCheck appointment.”
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