When COVID was declared an international pandemic, most of us probably didn’t think that we’d still be here, almost a year later, waiting for our lives to be even remotely back to normal. Vacations for the spring of 2020 were rescheduled until perhaps the fall (“COVID will be done by then, right?” Oh, how naive we were!), and then delayed yet again. Others put off their travels for a year or more, just to be safe.
There are still plenty of people – roughly 60% of us – who haven’t been on a plane since at least last March. Or maybe some flew just once or twice because of reasons, but they still haven’t taken a plane nearly as much as they normally would have. Whatever the case, airlines are still down about 60% from year-to-date figures.
Meanwhile, lots of us (as of March 2020, over 10 million of us) have TSA PreCheck, and by April 2018 (the most recent statistics I can find), over 5 million people had Global Entry, with about 50,000 new applications each month (and that’s not just U.S. citizens – both TSA PreCheck and Global Entry are not just for Americans anymore!)
In the earlier days of the pandemic – most of the spring and into summer of 2020, every airlines made service cuts, nearly all massive ones. Some actually cut out all service entirely (this link gives an idea of how much each airline cut). Most airlines are still not flying nearly as much as they had been, but some are starting to get an idea of when they’ll be flying more of their planes.
But for now, we’ve got many millions of people whose TSA PreCheck and Global Entry status have just languished. I’ve heard more than a few people mutter online that they think they should be (paraphrased), “refunded for their year of not being able to travel.”
I’ll bet you anything it’s not gonna happen. Why? Because even though it was a crazy year of vastly less flying, neither the TSA PreCheck nor Global Entry programs ever shut down.
From the TSA’s Coronavirus FAQ:
Are TSA PreCheck® lanes still available during the pandemic?
Yes, TSA PreCheck® lanes are still open. Use the MyTSA app or click here to find availability. If a dedicated lane is not available at your departure airport, just show your boarding pass with the TSA PreCheck® indicator to receive expedited screening in a standard lane.
Global Entry also never closed – if you could fly to the U.S. internationally, the Global Entry machines were still there for your use. True, the Enrollment Centers did close, for about 6 months. But U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced in July that if you had a Global Entry application in or were renewing, “every applicant now has 545 days from the date that CBP conditionally approves his or her application to complete the enrollment process. In addition, CBP will extend for up to 18 months the program benefits of members who apply for renewal before their current membership expires.”
So if you flew, TSA PreCheck lanes were still there for you (or if not, you could get expedited service at a regular lane). And if you flew internationally, the Global Entry machines were still available, too.
Granted, the number of flights you could take was greatly decreased. And/or the place where you wanted to go might involve caveats, such as testing or 14-day quarantines that you didn’t want to deal with, or travel bans that prevented you from going. But none of those were the TSA’s or CBP’s fault. They were there, and they were available.
And that’s why we won’t see a refund from either for our “lost year of travel.”
Feature Photo: Pixnio
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary