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Why does the TSA have to mark up my paper boarding pass when not on my digital one?

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


tsa marking up a delta paper boarding pass

I mean just look at my boarding pass, will you? I count, 1, 2,3,4,5,6,7 tick marks and circles. Then another 7 scribbled letters in the middle. Really?

Seriously, think about how much time it takes a TSA officer to do this for EACH boarding pass in line. This after I got my “3 beeps” so they know I am TSA Pre Check already. With our digital boarding pass there is no need to mark all over my phone (thank you very much, btw).

I reached out repeatedly to the TSA press contact but never got anything back. I then contacted another source that prefers not to be named and was told:

“It helps the officers verify the name, date, city, and also if TSA Pre Check or SSSS. They are working on this new technology that will do all of that automatically.”

That sounds nice but why do we have to wait at all? How hard is it to hear the 3 beeps and look at my ID and me and send me on my way (like with the digital pass)? Think if you are doing this for 100x folks in line how much time you could save vs. the 3rd grade scribbling on my pass!

Beyond that, I have been told by others that they “must” do this and there have been times when they did not have a highlighter (or even the right color one) that they could not do their jobs. If that is true I am shocked and bewildered beyond belief.

Anyway, I would love to know what you think of this TSA procedure. A waste of time or helpful to keep us safe? – René

 

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

René de Lambert is a contributing writer and the founder of RenesPoints. He is an avid Delta and SkyTeam flyer who has held Delta’s top Diamond Medallion status for many years and flown millions of miles.

10 Comments

  1. This should answer all of your questions (see Family Guy on YouTube)

  2. Yeah… it is redundant… but isn’t most government requirements?

    However, take a look at where the backup is when you are waiting in the security line. It usually is not the TSA agent checking your boarding pass… but either the massive amounts of carry on luggage waiting to be screened, or the line for full body scanners. I guess what I am saying is that even if the agent does check your boarding pass faster, you’ll still probably have to wait just as long to get past the x-ray machines..

  3. They’re just doing their job and frankly it takes about 15 seconds to verify everything’s correct. If you got all the way through then found out it was wrong, you’d be complaining no one checked it for you. Honestly, do you take the 10 seconds to verify it all lines up?

  4. René,
    This is just like the other day when I was traveling LAS-CVG on the red eye. I was told that the pre-check line was closed so I wouldn’t be able to use it. As I was getting to the checkpoint area I noticed people showing boarding passes were still able to use pre check so I kept my phone out to show the guy and he said “Must be paper, can’t use an electronic pass.” After we argued and argued I finally went into the regular line and talked to a supervisor on my way out his only response “We haven’t been told how to handle that yet, we will try to do better” I mean what the heck is the difference if I show you a paper boarding pass with scribbles that has TSA PRECHK or an electronic one with no scribbles that says TSA Pre with a check mark.

  5. It’s not a conspiracy, just business process and training:
    If you have to look at hundreds of boarding passes, you stop seeing what’s on them. They have done tests and despite agents looking at IDs, people would get through with a picture of their dog!
    By training them to focus on the boarding pass and circle the key fields, the agents have to look at it, read it and are more likely to catch problems… So, it does help to ensure the rules are followed….
    Now, does that make flying safer – not in my opinion, but it probably makes the infrequent flyer feel safer, knowing that everybody is “thoroughly” checked…

    • @Bill H – Yes, anything that slows my travels for no good reason is worth complaining about. Especially so if a AMEX Centurion lounge is on the other side of TSA 😉

  6. I asked a trusted friend at the TSA (manager). He stated that since the TSA has grown into such a behemoth, and the multiple consumer lawsuits, regulatory oversight, Red Teams trying to challenge the system by trying to subvert items through security, trying to use distraction tactics, and generally overburdening the TSA screeners, that the word came down from the mountaintop for all to scribble on the paper passes without fail was essentially proof that they were at least looking at the boarding passes, and had proof and knew who to blame if one got through without proper screening.

    Sounds like the way government should work right ? Don’t work on improving the system for the masses, just do what you can get by with, and ensure you have a stockpile of scapegoats in the barn….

  7. Young_Tho®ough Reply

    @dave they don’t verify it! The scanners verify it. They are just there make sure (verify) the verification worked correctly, which makes them redundant not useless but redundant.

    The thing is the redundancy is optional even for a “printed” pass. I shared with @rené the last time I had a printed pass and couldn’t get the mobile pass for some reason. I took a picture and pitched the paper and scanned it from the gallery in my phone just to speed up the (#ATL) process.
    I should have done what I said I’ll do next time it happens or I arrive really early to print a pass, and that’s let them keep the paper once they scribble on it! “I don’t want that dirty one anymore, you mark it, you keep it.”

    But the best in when you’ve ever had to leave the secure side and reenter, handing the agent a pre-scribbled bp. they look like they finally realize they’re really not doing anything important but checking faces/id photos. As if reflective holograms are state secrets…

    Truth be told on the id front you can get through tsa with just about anything….home school student ID ?? ….

  8. One of the things that puzzles me is, after TSA examines my paper boarding pass or scans my phone, I’m repeatedly asked to show my paper boarding pass (AGAIN) at the magnetometer. Of course, if I have an electronic BP, I don’t have to. What purpose does *that* serve?

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