Adventures in PreCheck: Fixing a broken PNR

I cannot remember the last time I did not receive TSA PreCheck on my boarding pass when flying on a participating airline. I’ve had Global Entry (and the associated Known Traveler Number) for 5+ years and even received it prior to that thanks to airline elite status. So I was terribly confused last Friday when I checked in for a flight to California and the boarding pass did not show the notation. Flabbergasted, even. And so I did what anyone does about small and random “injustices” these days: Posted it on Twitter.

I assumed that was the end of it. I’d leave a few minutes earlier and deal with the shame of taking off my shoes to get through security. I find it stupid and ridiculous but I generally have better windmills to tilt at. And then something amazing happened. The TSA replied.

I sent in the requested info and about 90 minutes later got a reply:

Thanks for your patience. Our records show that you didn’t get TSA Pre✓® on your boarding pass because your day of birth was entered into your reservation as the 11th and your day of birth in your trusted traveler profile is the 12th. Please reach out to your airline to update your reservations. Once this is done, please reprint your boarding pass or refresh your mobile app.

The TSA was able to look at my record and identify the data mismatch.

I was skeptical given that I book flights using a saved traveler profile and I’ve not touched said profile in a long time. I even confirmed with JetBlue that the profile still showed the correct birth date inside and shared that with the TSA twitter team. They noted that “Although your frequent flier account shows the correct date of birth, it may not automatically populate or transfer properly to your reservations.” Figuring there was not much else to do at this point (the JetBlue folks I reached out to didn’t see the issue) I headed to the airport on Saturday morning with enough time to stand in line. But also with a plan.

The typical JFK T5 morning crowd. Not awful, but PreCheck is a spectacular help if you can swing it.
The typical JFK T5 morning crowd. Not awful, but PreCheck is a spectacular help if you can swing it.

I stopped by the counter rather than just heading to the security line and asked the rep there to double-check the details. I saw a wry smile creep across the face of one of the two I was chatting with and I knew that things were about to get better. Indeed, the reservation had the wrong birthday on it. As soon as she fixed that a paper boarding pass spit out with the TSA PRE CHCEK notation and my mobile BP updated immediately, too. It actually worked.

My mobile BP updated immediately, showing the PreCheck notation once the birthday bit was fixed.
My mobile BP updated immediately, showing the PreCheck notation once the birthday bit was fixed.

Passing through security was still ~13 minutes – JFK T5 is often a zoo for the morning departure bank, especially on a Saturday with the Caribbean flights – but it was way better than going through the regular process.

Still no idea how the data got hosed up moving across the systems, but I was able to engage with the TSA team and figure out what was going on. It wasn’t random exclusion nor an undoing of my access. Just a quirk in data entry or transfer that got in the way. And, thankfully, an easy fix.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


    1. Yup. But in my case they always have matched. I book from a saved profile so the data is always consistent. I still don’t know how the data made it wrong in to the TSA systems but the fact that they identified it and helped me fix it was AMAZING to me.

    2. I believe you I have seen some crazy things happen on reservations. Travel agent makes reservation and puts all information in. Passenger calls us and we go through with a fine tooth comb. Travel agent put global entry number in the redress field. ????

    3. If you change things on reservations like name for example. It removes seats, and data for birthday and global entry number. I spend more time fixing then selling at times. I do believe what you are saying. It only takes a schedule change and an agent not paying attention.

  1. I’ve had that happen to me last year. There were some “IT upgrades” with the booking engine we use at work, and although I never touched my account profile, the trusted traveller info got messed up. I renetered my account info to the booking engine and everything was fine.

  2. 13 minutes through security? THAT is the most amazing part of the story as far as I am concerned.

    1. Why? Someone has to be able to fix problems that arise. Does it matter that the customer service rep answers a “call” via twitter versus a phone?

      1. They actually don’t have to fix problems that arise. If you read the fine print on sign-up, even if you’re approved, you aren’t guaranteed anything. What you did was pay the TSA to conduct a background check on you and help their profiling algorithm, on your dime; you’ve essentially funded a project that the TSA couldn’t convince Congress to fund and mandate.

        Which is all fine, I’m just bothered that the “customer service” team at TSA is able to read what is supposed to be highly protected information about individual citizens’ travel. This whole thing suggests that customer service reps have access to to the entire database of current travel reservations submitted by airlines, and that is somewhat surprising and very disappointing to me. I would expect government agencies to have a higher standard of procedural access to such highly sensitive information (both confirmed identification AND future location seem like a recipe for disaster).

        Context: If you don’t see where I’m coming from, I suspect we have different views on the TSA. In my book, it’s an enormous bureaucracy created as a reaction to 9/11 that really hasn’t done much good for the US, costs a veritable shit ton of money to maintain, has a corrupt culture that tolerates abuses of many kinds, is founded on shaky legal theory (are they police? no? then why can they stop me from going somewhere?), misrepresents itself to Congress (remember the per-segment tax that was explicitly limited to 2 segments that TSA said was unlimited?), and generally should be abolished. To be clear, I’m totally fine with security measures in general, just not with the dumpster fire that is TSA’s implementation of “security.”

        PS – For some reason, even when I click “notify of follow up comments via email” I never get any. Any ideas why? Checked my spam filter.

    1. I did renew GE but traveled plenty since then. This wasn’t tied to that. It was bad data pushed from the airline.

  3. Go through San Antonio. It has happened to me several times. I have asked about it and was told that precheck is not guaranteed.

    1. I know it is not guaranteed. That’s why I was willing to simply be annoyed by it. And also why I was so impressed that it was able to be researched and fixed.

      The TSA could’ve responded with that statement. But instead I got actionable data. That’s really impressive.

  4. I have had this same problem several times while flying on AA. Unfortunately the AA agents at DCA claimed they couldn’t do anything about it and referred me to TSA. On the other hand, the one it happened when I was departing CMH, the AA agent managed to fix it in a matter of a few key strokes.

  5. Any idea if US-Canada flights should get PreCheck? 2x recently, I have to gotten it when I have Nexus and the KTA and I get it on *every* other trip (even to Canada before this summer). Then last week a coworker said the same happens to him when going to Canada.

    1. There is nothing specific that prevents it when flying to Canada and I’ve received it without issue on all my recent Canada-bound trips, including just a couple weeks ago.

    1. Yes, but I also prefer flying at 8:40a instead of 6a. I booked 2F on the 6a flight for the cheap ($649) fare then used Mosaic status to change the departure time the day prior. As a last-minute swap I got a window but not a “throne” seat. Still a great experience.

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