There are always two sides to every story, and the TSA has graciously allowed 1-800-FlyEurope to get their position on some of the looming criticisms against the agency.
As of late, new TSA horror stories seem to be making media headlines on a weekly basis. With all of the bad PR buzzing around the internet, TV, and newspapers, you may be a bit apprehensive about what to expect when it comes time for you to pass through the security checkpoint for your upcoming flights to Europe. Ann Davis, TSA Public Affairs, kindly spent some time speaking to 1-800-FlyEurope about some of the hot topics that have gone viral in the U.S. media as of late. We hope that the following interview will help to shed some light on TSA’s present struggles and give you a better understanding of passenger rights.
What is the TSA (Transportation Security Administration)?
The US instituted the TSA after the events of September 11, 2001 shocked the nation. Initially it was a component of the Department of Transportation, but in 2003, the federal agency became part of the Department of Homeland Security. The TSA has authority over pretty much everything related to public transportation, such as aviation, ports, rail, highway and even pipelines (although I imagine travel through US sewer systems may not be ideal). The main focus of the TSA is to keep the traveling public safe.
What are the most common reasons people are delayed at the security check point?
Travelers are generally held up at the gate because they aren’t familiar with the current screening standards and/or items that are not permitted in carry-on luggage. It is also vital to allow yourself enough time to park and board your flight. Be aware of peak and off-peak hours. In preparation for a trip, visit TSA’s website, call the TSA Cares hotline for those traveling with disabilities or medical conditions at 1-855-787-2227, or the TSA contact center at 1-866-289-9673 for questions about ID, screening, firearms, security and more.
What is the number one conflict that TSA agents are confronted with on a daily basis?
Our agents are frequently questioned about the necessities of our policies. In the same breath Ann gives me a staggering statistic for the number of fire arms that were confiscated at airport security checkpoints in the US last year. In 2011 TSA agents prohibited the transport of 1200 firearms from being taken inside the plane’s cabin via carry-on bags.
What should someone do if they feel they are being treated improperly? All the stories that I have read seem to portray an unhappy passenger who has video taped their TSA conflict and upon arriving at their destination, they then post it publicly on Youtube for the entire world to see. There must be something that someone can do to try and resolve an issue at the security check point?
Every security check point has a supervisor on staff, called Screening Managers. If you feel that your questions and/or concerns aren’t being answered, request to speak with the Screening Manager.
What is the TSA’s stance on their security agents being perceived as aggressive and lacking compassion?
The TSA trains their officers to treat passengers with respect and with professionalism. The job is a very tough job, and in the recent months the TSA has been moving away from treating travelers as if one size fits all. Specifically, screening techniques have been modified for children under the age of 12 years old and those over the age of 75 years old. There are even 14 airport locations throughout the US that have initiated an expedited screening process for frequent travelers; this isn’t a free ride through the check point by any means, as random security checks are still performed.
More Tips and Resources to Review before your next Flight:
- You need to be aware of what you can and can not take into the plane’s cabin. Certain items may be permitted, but only as checked baggage. For example: knives and liquids over 3.4 ounces. If you try to pack a prohibited object in your carry-on bag, it is going to hold you and everyone else up in line.
- Make sure that you are familiar with the 3-1-1 guidelines for carry-on liquids and gels.
- When packing your carry-on, layer you items neatly. This enables the TSA to scan your luggage more quickly and easily. If everything is bunched into your bag in a heap of clutter, the X-ray device won’t give security a good image of the contents, and you will likely be pulled to the side so that your things can be sorted through manually.
- If you are traveling with gifts, don’t wrap them, or put the item(s) in a gift bag.
- It is best to carry-on larger electronic devices, because these need to be individually examined by TSA agents (they are too dense to be scanned through luggage). Keeping this in mind, pack laptops and game consoles so that they are easily accessible able to scan through the X-ray machine separately.
How to Breeze through the TSA Security Checkpoint
- Have your boarding pass and an acceptable ID ready to hand over to security.
- Wear slip on shoes. Don’t forget to put on socks, or else your toes are on parade for everyone else to see.
- Skip belts with metal buckles and empty the coinage from your pockets.
- If traveling with children, educate yourself on TSA’s modified screenings. Let your little ones know what to expect, and if they are particularly young, consider running a mock security check with them.
- Does the idea of going through the AIT (Advanced Imaging Technology) creep you out a little? There have been many updates to the imaging software the AIT uses, and TSA screeners now only see an ambiguous figure on their monitors. However, you may opt out of this method for another type of security procedure, which will most likely involve a pat down and metal detector wands.
If you have any doubt about the TSA screening process, contact their customer service department well in advance to your travels. Don’t let a misunderstanding or conflict put a hindrance on your travel plans.