View Full Version : In praise of the TSA

Capt Homesick
5th Feb 2004, 07:17
I've heard a lot of horror stories about the US Transport Security Agency, many of them on this website.... last week I went for a short holiday to Florida, my first visit to the US since the world changed.
In the US, I travelled through Chicago O'Hare and Orlando International... while I found the procedures a pain, without exception I found the TSA personnel to be polite, friendly and helpful. I would guess that in time, as they gain more confidence in their equipment, they will refine their procedures to speed the process up. In the meantime, they seem to be doing a difficult job well, and exhibiting considerable grace under pressure. :ok:

5th Feb 2004, 10:09
Likewise in KOAK just a few weeks ago.
Through security in three minutes...at 5pm. A new record, I would think.

5th Feb 2004, 16:33
Mrs Radeng found a real 'jobsworth' at portland last week.....But what puzzles me is why you get into a line something like 15 feet long, and your boarding card is inpsected at the entrance, half way along and at the end where you put your bag on the belt for X ray. Can someone explain why they feel it encessary to examine a boarding card so often? Is it a case that they are considered so unreliable that they need to check each others work? Or is it like the German railway official in Jerome K. Jerome's 'Three Men on the Bummel'?

Personally, I rather like the BA method where they check the boarding card as you get on the aircraft - having seen the case where someone had got through the gate for Stockholm when he was wanting to go to Berlin, and was picked up at the door.

6th Feb 2004, 21:04
Glad to see I'm not the only one who feels this way. They even handled me with the upmost courtesy when I mislaid my passport in Chicago & between all the tooing & froing I went to board my aircraft 15 minutes before take off. In my haste I schrieked at one of them 'Where's the gate', the startled TSA man enquired 'Seattle?' & politely pointed me in the correct direction. I honestly think he was more scared of me than I could have been of him, I gave him such a fright. Couldn't imagine being allowed to board an aircraft anywhere in Europe 15 minutes before take off mind you the airline had been warned in advance of my dilemma :D

Any concerns I had with the TSA were dealt with politely & apologetically when I emailed them on my return home. Many people seem to consider them initimidating, I found them all very nice, ordinary, approachable people just doing their job :ok:

7th Feb 2004, 00:09
They seem to more polite and professional than in the UK. Perhaps it's because in the UK they only get 6.50 per hour.

You pay peanuts....

Keep it up TSA!

7th Feb 2004, 02:39
From this American (well, Texan really ;) ), to the NON-Americans who have posted above, MANY THANKS for your understanding attitude towards the common folks who have to perform the "security checks" in our airports.

These TSA folks are just regular Americans who are tasked with doing a job that they know no one likes!! As usual in such a large force you will find the standard distribution of 10% who really go out of their way to ease their "customers" along; then maybe 85% who are just trying to get through the day best they can, and lastly there is always that 5% who seem to be having a bad day - regretfully - everyday !

cargo boy
7th Feb 2004, 19:14
Of course, the problem with statistics is that 97.34% of them are made up on the spot!:rolleyes:

Larry in TN
8th Feb 2004, 12:40
The reason for the double check of the boarding pass is this.

Some boarding passes are marked with an "SSSSS" to indicate that the computer has flagged the passenger as a security selectee. These folks will get the hand wanding and hand inspection of their bags regardless of the results of the walk-thru detector and Xray bag screening.

The first checker will direct selectees to the appropriate line but they don't escort them so it's possible that they might switch lines. The second check is to verify that the person going through is not a selectee who switches lines. Also, the line for selectees will also process non-selectees so they have to check to see if you're a selectee or not.

8th Feb 2004, 12:46
Is the selectee thing random?

When traveling at Christmas they "selecteed" my wife, my son, and I.

My wife and I, sure. But it was pretty ludicrous watching them wand, remove the tiny shoes from, and pat down a 15-month-old.

9th Feb 2004, 20:49
"Of course, the problem with statistics is that 97.34% of them are made up on the spot!"

The corollory to this is that 62.89% of the population believe all the statistics they read. This rises to 87.02% within the USA.


Yes, I too think the TSA staff on the ground do a decent job in what is a fairly pressured environment.

What I cannot understand is the TSA requirement to leave checked baggage unlocked when travelling within or out of the USA. :confused:

Surely this provides a first class security loophole?

As someone said elsewhere on pprune, security measures are aimed at preventing the previous attack, not the next.


10th Feb 2004, 00:17
LarryinTN's explanation would hold water if it was a case of someone at the start of the line checking and then checking when you get to the end with nowhere to go in the middle!

My best experience was at Colorado Springs: having been through my suitcase, repacked it and sent it off, the guy comes running up to me as I go through security with the pair of shoes he'd forgotten to repack in the case!

I always get the SSSS card too, as I tend to go on round trips to the US, with start and finish in different places. Sometimes it's slightly annoying, but the guy I had in San Diego the other week was really nice, which does make up for some of the jobsworths.

surely not
10th Feb 2004, 03:55
Skyray you are obviously not a devious man, however them that are devious would have no qualms at all about hiding the bits of their trade on a baby or in its clothing.

The guys did their job properly, you should be pleased not aggrieved.

10th Feb 2004, 12:12
Having just spent the weekend wandering around the US on a strange itinerary, I got the dreaded SSSS on the first boarding card of each batch (I had 6 in total, issued in pairs and the first of each pair was SSSS). On each occasion the TSA staff were very polite, thorough and competent.

On one occasion I was in transit airside and rerouting at an Admirals Club when an SSSS boarding pass came up for the next flight. The Admirals Club receptionist said that I would have to exit security and reenter to go through the secondary screening, otherwise it would be flagged at the gate and delay everyone's boarding.

This was irritating since I was already secondary screened at the preceding airport , but the receptionist very kindly made it easy for me by recommending that I left my bags and coat in the Admirals Club while I went back out through security, thus making the whole process much quicker.

I can't help feeling there was a logic failure here somewhere. :)

Larry in TN
11th Feb 2004, 08:03

Random is (or at least was) one of the criteria. There are many other things which could flag you as a selectee. Regarding your son... Drug smuglers have used children and babies as moles for years under the asumption that customs officials won't search the kids as thoroughly as an adult. If small children are excluded from the selection criteria then that leaves a very big whole in the process which could easily be exploited.


The TSA does not require that you leave your checked luggage unlocked. They suggest that you do and tell you that *IF* a locked bag must be opened for inspection (most aren't) they will break the lock to open it. The decision to lock is completely up to the passenger. This is clearly explained on the TSA web site.

At many airports the checked luggage is scanned while in site of the passenger. In those cases you can lock the case and standby to open it if it needs to be opened or leave it open and ask them to lock it when they finish. There is also a new lock on the market that the TSA can open without breaking. A cheaper option is to "lock" it with nylon zip ties. If they need to inspect they just cut them off.


An open-jaw routing, or even a one-way ticket, does not guarentee selection. I have a number of one-way tickets in December and January. On the first one I was a selectee but not on the rest. I can only guess that the computer recongized the repeating pattern and took that into account.

12th Feb 2004, 00:34
At many airports the checked luggage is scanned while in site of the passenger. In those cases you can lock the case and standby to open it if it needs to be opened or leave it open and ask them to lock it when they finish. There is also a new lock on the market that the TSA can open without breaking. A cheaper option is to "lock" it with nylon zip ties. If they need to inspect they just cut them off.That is how it is being done at MCO. I had to lock my checked luggage (to safeguard the firearm and ammunition inside). I stood by while TSA scanned it. They decided to open it to examine an item inside (not the firearm or ammunition). So I gave them the key, they opened it, examined it, closed it up, and gave me back the key.