Good customer service from the TSA? It’s no joke

Tifon Images/Shutterstock
Tifon Images/Shutterstock

Like most Americans, Jim Davies believes the Transportation Security Administration might benefit from a top-to-bottom reform.

And like most Americans, he wasn’t surprised when a Government Accountability Office study revealed widespread employee misconduct, including screeners involved in theft and drug smuggling activities, as well as circumventing mandatory screening procedures for passengers and baggage.

All of which made his recent experience in Philadelphia so noteworthy. As he waited in line to have his ID checked, he saw three elderly men approach the checkpoint.

“One of the gentlemen had clearly not been on a commercial flight in some time,” he says. “He presented his Medicare card and then his library card as his ID.”

The TSA agent was polite and explained the ID requirements to the passenger. Then he helped him find the right card. A long line quickly began to form behind him.

“Another agent saw what was happening and opened another line so as not to slow down other passengers,” remembers Davies, who works for a nonprofit organization in Pittsburgh. “The entire transaction was completed in a polite and helpful manner. I don’t know how, but somehow the gentleman cleared the identification process.”

The TSA agent didn’t see what Davies did: From the back, the elderly man’s jacket identified him as a member of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African-American pilots who fought in World War II. He’d helped a war hero get through security.

For every TSA agent who steals, cheats and abuses there are hundreds, and perhaps thousands, who do an outstanding job of protecting America’s transportation systems every day.

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There, I said it. The TSA sometimes gives you good service.

Maybe it’s time to recognize these small acts of selflessness. After all, with employee morale as low as it surely must be, do the TSA’s frontline employees have any reason to perform beyond expectations?

Cleanup on aisle one

On a recent flight from Washington to Orlando, I queued up at the TSA screening just in front of a new mom holding her baby. Since I don’t trust the agency’s full-body scanners, I was mentally preparing for what would come next: an “enhanced” pat-down that may — or may not — be done by the book.

I was surprised when, at the end of the long corridor, I didn’t see one of the TSA’s feared full-body scanners. We would all be screened the old-fashioned way, with the highly effective magnetometers and luggage X-rays. I breathed a sigh of relief.

The mood at the screening area was relaxed. The agents waved passengers through the magnetometer one by one. I walked through and then looked to the conveyor belt for my luggage.

“Oh no!” the woman behind me gasped.

I turned around and I saw what must be every new parent’s nightmare. The baby had filled his diaper — had overfilled his diaper — and the floor was coated in viscous brown liquid.

The TSA agent screening her was unfazed. He offered her a reassuring hand and told her not to worry. Then he asked a colleague to help him clean the mess.

I have three kids, all of whom experienced at least one event that I refer to as a “splooch-through.” I can assure you, I wouldn’t have blamed the agent for backing away and ordering Mom to clean up after her baby.

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My luggage, cell phone and wallet emerged on the other side of the conveyor belt and I reached over to grab them, losing sight of the incident. But the image of a TSA agent helping the new mother will always be with me.

This probably isn’t the kind of thing they train TSA agents to do. It’s something the agent’s parents taught him: patience, understanding, helpfulness. That screener is a credit to his organization, and to his family.

Turning the other cheek

A good TSA agent doesn’t just perform well when a baby or old war veteran needs to get screened, but under a high-pressure situation. For example, when outraged passengers challenge their right to inspect their personal belongings, which happens from time to time.

Davies had a front-row seat to such a confrontation on another flight from Las Vegas to Detroit. The flight was delayed for 30 minutes because of thunderstorms.

“I was the second person in the Sky Priority line, behind a Diamond-level passenger who was clearly already in a bad mood because of the flight delay,” he says, adding, “I guess Delta should have been able to control the weather.”

Just prior to the pre-boarding, five TSA agents showed up. As any frequent traveler knows, that means they’ll be conducting a secondary screening at the gate.

“This flight is already 30 minutes late,” the elite-level passenger barked at one of the TSA agents. “Why pick it when all you are going to do is make us even later?”

“Sir,” the agent replied, in a polite, non-confrontational tone, “our mission is to ensure safety for the travelling public and I can assure you that our efforts here will in no way delay the flight.”

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“You are not ensuring my safety,” the passenger hissed. “Your job is worthless.”

To which the agent calmly responded: “Sir, we have been given a job to do here and I’m sorry if you feel it is worthless.”

The flight wasn’t delayed, by the way.

“We can agree or disagree about the merits and mission of the TSA,” adds Davies. “But the agent on the ground is an employee following instructions from more senior management. I thought she handled herself very professionally.”

Well said.

I think it’s time to recognize good service from an agency that isn’t known for it. How else will the TSA know what it means to serve the public it’s assigned to protect? Sometimes, the little things matter much more than anyone can imagine.

Does the TSA get enough credit for a job well done?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at Read more of Christopher's articles here.

  • California_Dave

    Tough job dealing with the public and being on your feet all day. In most cases it is the process, not the people. That said, I was recently in San Francisco and after getting through the screening and collecting my bags, a TSA agent tried to speak to me and his foreign (I’m guessing Jamaican?) accent was so strong, I could not understand a word he was saying to me. I told him I was sorry, but I didn’t understand. He repeated his question and I still didn’t understand a word. I asked if he could ask the question to a woman standing next to me thinking it was just me, and he got upset. He repeated his question and the woman next to me just shrugged as she couldn’t understand him either. He mumbled something under his breath that seemed derogatory and walked off. That was my only less than professional encounter with a TSA agent.

  • Emily

    I often get enhanced screening when I fly to and from the US. I’m British, and pretty unremarkable in most ways apart from being born in a small village in a troubled West African country (my sister also gets the same screening so we assume it must be that). This means I’ve developed a horror of that TSA checkpoint, both entering and leaving the country. I most often fly to Atlanta, Boston, San Francisco and Seattle. Atlanta, Boston and San Francisco are rarely pleasant, with surly and officious staff. Seattle, however, is always a pleasure. The process takes as long there as elsewhere but the staff are almost always fun, joking and chatting with me as they process me, and they’re unfailingly polite. I guess that it all comes down to the local management and would indicate that there’s some serious management training needed in the TSA to bring everyone to Seattle’s level.

  • Fisher1949

    Sadly, Chris Elliott has sold out to TSA along with Aurthur Frommer and Rick Seaney. Anything for a buck right?

    There have been three TSA screeners arrested for crimes in a month. Last week another TSA screener, Larry Kobielnik, was arrested for sexual assault and attempted rape in Florida, a month after Massachusetts TSA employee Miguel Quinones was arrested for having child pornography on a laptop in his locker and Honolulu screener Tracy Leanne Owens was caught stealing cash from a passengers bag.

    This is typical of the hiring standards of TSA which continues to employ a known pedophile, Thomas Harkin, working at Philadelphia airport more a year after he was exposed.

    In early May an MS victim, Robi Mandell, was harassed and detained by TSA workers which caused her to miss her flight at Daytona Airport. TSA acknowledged that the screeners were at fault but didn’t fire or discipline the screeners or offer any compensation for her rebooking cost and harassment.

    There have been 115 TSA workers arrested in the last 30 months including 19 arrested for sex crimes including 16 involving children, over 32 for theft, 12 for smuggling contraband through security and one for murder. Having criminals staffing checkpoints doesn’t keep anyone safe

    In April TSA traumatized their second wheelchair bound child in less than 6 months. Does anyone really believe that terrorizing these children makes anyone safer?

    Can TSA cite the safety benefit of forcing a wounded Marine to remove his prosthetic leg at the checkpoint in front of everyone?

    How was security improved by pulling an Ohio mother off of her flight and strip searching her last year?

    Perhaps TSA can explain how any of this is keeping us safe when TSA screeners haven’t caught or even identified one terrorist after 11 years and over $80 billion in funding while having over 500 TSA screeners arrested for serious crimes.

    This agency is a national disgrace and is endangers more people than it protects. It is long past time for TSA to be replaced with a sensible system staffed by local police, not criminals and misfits.

  • lost_in_travel

    No, I don’t think Chris has “sold out”. He is simply pointing out that there are some random acts of kindness and professionalism and that perhaps we should view the individuals who are in the TSA as just that – Individuals. There are plenty of really bad ones, you pointed out quite a few and they are quite recent so the list of the bad ones over the years is very long. I don’t agree with the TSA’s mission and I feel far less safe with them in place, but perhaps we might consider, even if only for a few minutes on this Monday morning, that there are a few good agents. I just wish they out numbered the bad ones.

  • Harassed Traveler

    It’s sad when doing the job expected is considered exceptional service. The service provided by the TSA is so poor that when they do the job expected, it is noteworthy. The examples provided here are what I would expect from any service provided working with the public. And the last example of turning the other cheek? TSA is getting slapped around by the public because of how they have treated the public. A slapping well earned and deserved.

  • John Baker

    Fisher1949 Really? You go after Chris for pointing out that the TSA does have some good news stories. That they do have “Good Apples” to go with the bad. Your counter point is that they have “bad apples.” I’m happy for you. You regurgitated the same drivel off other sites.

    How about reading Chris’s closing paragraph again:

    “I think it’s time to recognize good service from an agency that isn’t known for it. How else will the TSA know what it means to serve the public it’s assigned to protect? Sometimes, the little things matter much more than anyone can imagine”

    If you don’t reward those agents that do provide good service with an “atta boy,” they will never out number those that provide bad.

  • John Baker

    LOL … I have yet to have any sort of customer service from my local BMV or any other government organization. I’d be elated with these examples from any form of government agency.
    So Yes having members of a government agency perform customer service on par with a private business is news worthy.

  • Raven_Altosk

    In this house, the diaper blowouts are referred to as “Poopagheddons.”

    I have nothing else to contribute to this discussion today.


  • MarkKelling

    Wish I could come up with something to say related to this article that wouldn’t get me in trouble. Reading it made me check the date, I thought it was April, and made me think I woke up in an alternate universe.

  • EdB

    I think you just provided more proof to the OP with your response. I didn’t see where the OP compared government to private business either. Just that service has gotten so bad with the TSA that when they do the job expected, it is now considered an outstanding job.

  • Sometimes an honest man lies, and sometimes a liar tells the truth. I don’t think most anything or anyone is 100% something (good or bad) all the time. Including the TSA. The agency, I am sure, has good people and bad people working for it. Yea for the good, boo for the bad. I flew a few weeks ago to Ireland on vacation. I never seem to have an issue at my starting location in Tulsa. I have seen worse at other locations.

  • frostysnowman

    It’s great to hear that the TSA workers can be nice and helpful sometimes. That doesn’t change the fact that what they do at the airport is useless security theater, and their pat-downs violate our 4th amendment rights.

  • jerryatric

    For every “feel good” story re the TSA there are probably 100 unpleasant experiences.
    How many TSA agents have been caught stealing or other misdeeds. How about the screeners joking & talking to their buddies turned away from the hand luggage conveyer their supposed to be watching? Most are indifferent if not downright rude.
    Better training? Better vetting of the applicants?

  • jim6555

    You can’t blame the TSA workers for carrying out orders that come down from the Department of Homeland Security. They want to keep their jobs. I’m sure that most TSA employees would be happy to dispense with having the traveling public take off our shoes, remove our laptops from carrying cases, forcing us to go through x-ray machines that could cause future health problems and other useless, needless actions. Your complaints (and mine) are the product of overpaid bureaucrats sitting in ivory towers and not the people with who we interact at the airport.

  • EdB

    The problem with the front line TSA workers is not them following the “orders” from the overpaid bureaucrats, but when they ignore those orders or make up their own rules. How many stories have been told of women having to remove breast prostheses in violation of the rules set by those bureaucrats only to have the charges causally waved off by their superiors as doing their jobs. This just tells them to go ahead and violate the rules. They won’t get punished. This is not strictly a problem of the bureaucracy, but a systemic problem, from top to bottom, of the whole agency.

  • PsyGuy

    Its not that the TSA is bad, the vast majority of them are actually very professional, the issue is that these are people with badges, and we the public demand a very, very, very high standard of behavior for this group of people. So while their performance is pretty good, its falls below the expectations and standards that we expect and receive from other professionals involved in law enforcement.

  • emanon256

    I voted no. In all of my past years of weekly travel, I have had a few bad TSA experiences. Some were over the top bad, and all were reported. But more than 95% of them were actually pleasant experiences, with professionals. TSA employees are regular people too. I personally think people who are pre-dispositioned to go off on power trips are drawn to apply for jobs like the TSA so they can push their authority on others, but that is still a small number. I still believe the TSA should be dismantled and we should go back to our pre 9/11 security system and rules. But for the most part, there are many good people who work for the TSA. And BTW, I think the Delta Diamond guy in story #3 is the worst kind of traveler. I cant’ stand people who acted like that during my time as a frequent flyer.

  • emanon256

    I flew in and out of Boston weekly for 1.5 years and I have to agree, they were amongst the worst TSA people I have encountered. Still some good ones there, but the bad ones were over the top bad.

  • emanon256

    Ive been very happy since we added solid food :)

  • frostysnowman

    Yes, this. Thank you for adding to my point is such an articulate manner.

  • If pointing out that some TSA agents do their jobs well is being a “sellout” then I’m proud to stand with Arthur and Rick on this issue.

  • frostysnowman

    I fly out of ATL regularly and the agents at Hartsfield-Jackson are definitely some of the rudest in the country.

  • EdB

    I can’t stress this enough but, THE TSA IS NOT A LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY! Just because you pin a badge from a Cracker Jack box on someone does not make them a cop.

    While there maybe a few good people in the TSA, if you use quality ingredients in a recipe for crap, you still get crap. The TSA IS bad! The people on the front line may be good people, but any organization that blatantly violates constitutional rights and condone criminal assalts on people is very bad.

  • Miami510

    I don’t know what the pay scale is for entry-level TSA employees, but with TSA, as in life, you get what you paid for… especially in the area of interpersonal relations. At a low level of pay, you get an employee whose main effort is to follow orders exactly along with the fear that failure to do so will result in loss of the job. This type of employee and the social-educational background generally will not score high on an interactive personal scale. Smiling is even lower on the scale.
    Unlike employees involved in commercial interactions (sales persons or receptionists) many “customers…. the public) approach the screening process with an angry attitude as expressed by some of the poster on this Website. “They have no God-dam right to look in my pockets… there’s a Constitution you know!!!” The professional response to expressions of such attitudes, will strain all but the most secure, highly education, well motivated person…. and on a bad day… will get a rough response from even the best.

  • Ward Chartier

    TSA personnel mostly see themselves as gatekeepers. If they were trained to be facilitators, the manner in which they approached their jobs might well be different. The examples in today’s post clearly demonstrate facilitation, and the effect is nice to see. Like any job, the work that TSA personnel do will become tedious. If their attitude toward travelers was more like, “We’re all in this together. Let’s try to make this moment as easy as possible.” I have to imagine that complaints would decrease.

  • Judy Serie Nagy

    Very nice to see most voters think that TSA is picked on … little doubt in my mind that there are as many positive stories as negative. TSA is an easy target and California Dave is so right … dealing with the public is a horrendous job, period. Thanks for running this, Chris.

  • Judy Serie Nagy

    And we’re proud of you for being fair. The more praise the TSA good guys get the more good guys there will be.

  • SoBeSparky

    My jaw just dropped. Christopher wrote a column on the everyday customer-oriented activities of TSA screeners. Can pigs fly, too? LOL.

  • SoBeSparky

    Some perspective, Fisher. Last week Miami Beach police tasered and killed a skinny kid who was being chased for tagging a boarded-up building. Really skinny kid (18/M) tasered in the chest, a prime candidate for serious consequences from a Taser. Death is final. Harrassment is inconvenient, insulting and disrespectful.

    Perspective: Bad actions of a few certainly ruin the reputation of a law-enforcement agency (quasi or official). It is going happen everywhere to some degree. But a police force which is undertrained and underdisciplined is far more dangerous than an occasional overly rigorous and perhaps demeaning pat-down.

  • EdB

    But the underlying problem will still exists. Just that there will be more “good” people violating your rights.

  • But..that isn’t what this story is about.

  • DavidYoung2

    Sometimes it IS the people – the passengers. We were in Las Vegas and a woman walks up with a full-sized aluminum softball bat. The TSA agent says, “Ma’am, you’re going to have to check that.” She becomes argumentative and demands to know WHY she can’t bring it on board. She demands to see it “in the book” that she can’t bring it on board and said “her daughter” said she could. The TSA agent was calm and professional at all times, and she only backed down because the fellow PASSENGERS started becoming irate at her. She started yelling at the TSA agent, then being rude to the other passengers telling them to ‘mind their own business,’ and finally stormed off in a huff. After all that, the TSA agent simply said, “Next passenger please….”

  • William_Leeper

    Any good journalist has to cover both sides of a story. If you feel that is “selling out” you couldn’t be more wrong. A good journalist is impartial and fair.

  • The entire TSA, its “leadership”, and its policies, are a violation of the Constitution, which underpins our jurisprudence. The agency itself, and its policies, are the very definition of anti-American. The agency itself commits high crimes and misdemeanors simply by existing; that its employees are sometimes (or even frequently) pleasant, jovial, and/or kind to small children and harried parents in no way reduces, much less negates, the severity of those crimes. And those are just the first-level crimes they commit simply by existing. I won’t even go into the countless secondary crimes some TSA employees are on record as having committed against innocent Americans, including but not limited to sexual assault, theft, and smuggling.

    Come on, Chris. I expected better from you.

  • Ah yes. Just following orders. Good lord, that’s a tired excuse.

  • AJPeabody

    Pigs can fly with proper government issued ID.

  • Zod

    I recently came home from a visit to Durango Colorado leaving IAD. I have to say, this was one of the best flights I have had all around. From the TSA agents to the gate agents and flight delays and cancellations. First, at IAD, my wife made a comment about how bad her drivers license photo was to the TSA agent. The TSA agent said that it “wasn’t that bad” and then showed us her TSA photo ID to prove it could be worse. Yikes! The TSA agent was an attractive woman, but that photo made her look downright “stalky”. The flight to Durango was uneventful even if the Dallas airport is horrible!
    Flying back from Durango to IAD our flight was delayed so we were rushed onto a different airline. I have never seen a person type as fast as this guy typed! He got our tickets transferred and told the TSA agents we were on our way to the gate (if you have ever been to Durango Airport, it is dinky with only 2 gates and the ticket counter people do double duty as gate agents!) We got to the TSA section and the agents rushed us through. One even yelled back to the gate agent that we are on our way. The flight to Denver was bumpy but again, uneventful. Once in Denver, our flight to IAD was on a “Gate hold” because of a storm and lightening in the area. The gate agent told us that we didn’t need to be on the plane just yet because it wasn’t going anywhere, so we sat in comfortable seats at the gate and ate our lunch…much nicer than sitting in the airplane. A little more than an hour later, the gate agent told us to board and we were in the air in 45 minutes! The pilot took what was normally a 5 hour flight and took it down to just over 4! He hit speeds of over 660 mph! (according to the onboard flight display in the seat back video) That jet stream must have been booking! We landed in IAD almost on time even though we were over an hour delayed in Denver!
    So, all things considered, this was a very nice flight. From the ticket counter agents to the TSA to the gate agents. It was reminiscent of the good old days of flying!

  • John Baker

    As long as they’re “emotional support animals”….

  • pauletteb

    I broke my right foot during a visit to my daughter in DC. “Fortunately” my daughter had had a severe trifold sprain in the same foot and thus had a walking boot that fit me. With the boot I was able to maneuver without crutches, albeit clumsily. When I approached the TSA agent at Dulles Airport, I politely asked if he needed me to remove the boot. He said that wouldn’t be necessary, called another agent over to swab the boot, and then helped me through the metal detector. In the meantime, another agent retrieved my scanned belongings from the belt and watched over them till I could pick them up. Nothing but courtesy all around.

  • SadYoureSoDim

    No hyperbole there, eh?

  • SadYoureSoDim

    Some agents are, some aren’t. Look it up. And they under the executive branch, which by definition enforces our laws.

    Keep ranting. Whack jobs like you reinforce that we need them.

  • SadYoureSoDim

    Keep ranting Deb. Every person like you convinces 100 others that there’s no issue here. Just a bunch of whack jobs screaming.

  • EdB

    Maybe you should look it up yourself. The only “agents” with police powers are the Air Marshalls. All the people dressed in smurf blue are not and never have been. The only exception would be a police officer moonlighting, but I doubt most jurisdictions would allow them to take that type of job

  • EdB

    And calling people “Whack Jobs” is not only a violation of forum posting rules, it also shows who the dim one really is.

    I wonder which one of our pro-tsa moderators are posting under this handle?

  • JenniferFinger

    Regardless of how we feel about the TSA, let’s be polite to each other here, please.

    That goes for all posters.

  • MarkKelling

    Yes, pigs can fly:

    Along with horses and anything else you consider to be a support animal.

  • TSAisTerrorism

    That’s what happens when you choose a prison matron to “process” “suspects”, er I mean passengers. ATL TSA is managed by such a person. Does it all make sense now?

  • jerryatric

    Thanks EdB – but better to ignore Sad Youre So Dim types. Then they crawl back from whence they came.

  • EdB

    Yeah. I was going to comment on the flawed logic of being in the executive branch made them law enforcement. The president is in the executive branch but isn’t law enforcement. But figured by their name they wouldn’t be able to comprehend it.

  • Fisher1949

    This contradicts everything your have written about TSA in the last two and a half years. If you want to be an industry advocate like Seaney and Frommer, go ahead. Just don’t reverse your position and pose an a consumer advocate. Doing so makes you a fraud.

  • Fisher1949

    So what does that have to do with TSA?! That is Miami’s problem not a federal issue.

    TSA is a national problem that is unrelated to local LE problem. TSA aren’t even LE, they are glorified mall cops working in airports.

  • SoBeSparky

    Look up the word, perspective, shorthand for “put things or life into perspective.”

    “The ability to perceive things in their actual interrelations or comparative importance.”

    While you rant about the arrests (not convictions) of TSA employees and allegations (not adjudicated) of abuses, unarmed people across the United States are being killed by police. Put into perspective the outcomes of humiliated people versus dead people.

    What do the two have to do with each other? Let me spell it out. Each of us has to establish our own priorities. Yours are to publicize passengers whose Constitutional rights have been denied. They feel abused and disgusted. Mine are rather to publicize the denial of Constitutional rights to people which end up in death. They don’t feel any more.

    One of several aspects to put into perspective is which public agency should be a higher priority “in their actual interrelations or comparative importance?”

    Can you now understand, “perspective?”

  • LonnieC

    Seems to me that the very act of writing a positive column about the TSA demonstrates Christopher’s objectivity. Say no more….

  • Fisher1949

    No, it just demonstrates that everyone has a price. I’m sure it will become clear how Chris is profiting from this reversal in a few months and who paid for it.

  • I’m a little disappointed by the angry, personal attacks I’ve sustained from people who I’ve agreed with — and for the most part, who I continue to agree with — on the issue of the TSA.

    To call me a “sellout” and to suggest that I have a hidden profit motive that will someday be “revealed” instead of arguing the facts, doesn’t speak well for the anti-TSA faction. Actually, it makes them look petty.

    Let’s be clear: I continue to be outraged by the TSA’s clear violation of the Fourth Amendment and with its blatantly unconstitutional scans and searches. I find the GAO report deeply distressing. I am no fan of the TSA.

    Forgive me for not sticking to the “TSA is evil” catechism, which apparently requires I never say anything nice about the agency. I hang my head in shame! I have been outed as a fake consumer advocate. What will I ever do now?

  • Fed Up in SFO

    The TSA is WORTHLESS. These people should be embarrassed that they stooped so low as to even apply for the job, not be rewarded for just “following orders”. A monkey can do that.

  • Bill___A

    Many of them are good, many of them are not. The problem is that there doesn’t seem to be a method to deal with the good ones and not the bad. I agree that the good ones take the bad rap for the things that happen which are not good.
    However, until they learn how to sort the good from the bad, the experience is going to be a problem.
    Although there have been successful security screenings, I have had things missing, I have had them screw up the locks, and I don’t have a good feeling about them. Out of all the people that I deal with when making a trip, the TSA is the one organization that I do not feel comfortable dealing with.
    Security in other countries – don’t seem to have a problem with them.
    Although Chris makes some valid points about the good ones, it is unfortunately, overshadowed by the bad. I’ve had some very positive dealings with them – but just like a restaurant which usually has good food and sometimes gives you food poisoning, it is an outfit I’d rather avoid.

  • Mundane Lustrator

    I have both politely and rudely had my rights and privacy violated by the TSA. I appreciate good customer service and call upon the TSA to enforce polite, professional service, but they still violate our rights and privacy.

    After seeing several comments this past yr on Twitter from pax who had their property destroyed by TSA exployees who (I believe sometimes intentionally) leave the lids off of liquids or powders in checked luggage, I carefully observed a TSA employee who was searching a bag behind the ticket counter. He was thorough and made sure to securely close and rewrap the items he tested. That was a good thing, but it still violated the rights of the bag owner.

    It is difficult for me because I want to treat good acting people well, but when they work for such a sick department, I can’t always keep my positive attitude towards screening employees.

  • Mundane Lustrator

    Probably would’ve helped if he’d shown her the rule.

  • SickenedByTheTSA

    I’m sure there were some really nice guards in the Nazi’s death camps. They were just following orders too.

  • Mundane Lustrator

    I’m so sorry this happens to you. :-(

  • Mundane Lustrator

    I don’t totally buy your bill of goods.

    TSA employees have a choice: be good or be evil. They may work in hell, but don’t need to act like demons.

  • Mundane Lustrator

    Bull. I expect the same level of good customer service I can occasionally get at a fast food restaurant. The fact that TSA employees, who get paid more and have better benefits, cannot consistently meet this meager goal says a lot about both the management and the people they hire.

  • Mundane Lustrator

    Yes x 100.

  • Mundane Lustrator

    Dealing with the public is only horrendous if you think and make it so. It’s tough, but certainly doable and occasionally rewarding.

  • bodega3

    You haven’t had a bash the TSA post for awhile and I noticed how the usual negative nellies only come out when they can see the glass 1/2 emply and to their normal bashing. There are positive experiences and it is good to hear about them.

  • Susan J. Barretta

    Cry me a river. I have absolutely no respect for people “just following orders.” History is filled with people following orders that have lead to tragic outcomes.

    I have seen the video of a woman getting beaten by TSA agents to the point where she suffered a concussion – it was on film and even discussed on Dr. Phil. I have read the stories of elderly women being strip searched down to their Depends. I have read about medical devices being disturbed and damaged. I have seen enough videos of children being pawed over and traumatized. I have seen the sobbing pregnant lady getting groped and pawed over. I have read the story of a former rape victim who ended up in the hospital after an intrusive pat-down because it triggered some very bad memories. God help anybody with a prosthetic limb or sits in a wheelchair. People with physical challenges suffer the worst.

    Every criminal organization has nice people. TSA literally gets away with assaulting people. That there may be one or two people who happened to be nice to you when you went through screening doesn’t in any way justify TSA’s existence.

    There is no rational basis for what TSA does. Taking off your shoes and belt and getting pawed over and scanned is not going to deter a terrorist. Confiscating your 5 oz bottle of shampoo is not going to protect your plane from an anti-aircraft missile. Even Congress complained about this “bloated” agency and that its screening procedures are “theatrics.” There is no evidence that TSA makes us safer. On the contrary, the long security lines at the airport make people nice targets for Domededovo style airport bombers. TSA screening is not intelligence driven, despite what John Pistole says. Dear God in heaven, how can strip searching 90 year old women be based on anything rational?!? Congress has characterized TSA screening as “one size fits all.”

    A retired FBI special agent argues the whole paradigm of TSA is one big fail.

    I know a decent person or two that used to work at TSA and quit in disgust. A few other decent people have probably gotten fired. What scares me is whom they will be replaced with. Because TSA wants people to just follow orders – no matter how stupid, insane, irrational, or psychopathic they are.

    I refuse to go along with this pretend game that what TSA does is necessary or constitutionally lawful. The emperor has no clothes.

  • Cat

    I think the opposite. We all know we will have to go through the process. Its the attitude of TSA agents that makes it so miserable. I recall one time being pulled out of line and told to stand in a certain location, which was about 10 feet behind the agents and in the middle of nowhere. No explanation given, then the agent turned his back to me, went back to work and simply ignored me. After standing there for about 5 minutes I walked over and asked him why I was made to stand there and had he forgotten about me. I got a stern, threatening lecture about complying with a TSA agent and if I had a problem the police would be called. I went back to the area and stood for another 10- 15 minutes. I was now worrying about being on time for my flight. I was also getting a bit steamed and embarrased from being singled out. I tried to wave down any of the agents looking my was, they also saw and ignored me. Finally, I went to the same agent and told him to please call the police because I was complying with his orders but was being held up without any explanation and I was going to miss my flight if it went on any longer. Five minutes later I was at my gate but never got any explanation for why I was pulled out. All I can figure is this guy was just a tremendous jerk who got his jollies off detaining random passengers.

  • TestJeff Pierce

    I have come across polite molesters during my opt-outs, as I remain one
    of the few Americans who actually appreciate our (lost) American values and refuse to get in a scanner.

    I felt sad for the old guy, in Raleigh Durham, with a bad back and recently had a young, polite gentleman a couple of weeks ago in Philadelphia.

    this week on business travel I saw a little girl, maybe 6 yrs old – who
    was privileged to get the metal detector along with her mother – but
    the girl put her hands up in the air in the surrender position. Clearly,
    she was watching the GeTSApo surrender machines (a.k.a scanners) and
    the willing victims.

    It really was depressing to watch her actions confirm Osama Bin Laden won.

    So, are there nice GeTSApo? Absolutely. But it doesn’t make me feel good about airline travel or my new country of Homeland.

  • mac

    I’m guessing that every lane doesn’t have a copy of the rules and regulations, meaning that the agent would have to go and get the book or ask someone else to go get one. That could take at least several minutes, AND THEN – have you ever tried to find something in a set of government regulations? I am sure that the woman would be patiently waiting for the reference. Any one who is between the age of 10 and 90 with even subnormal intelligence knows you can’t take a baseball bat on a plane. She was probably a pain in the ass on the plane as well.

  • Robert Hollis Weber

    Chris, if a member of an LA gang whispered “I’m sorry” before terrorizing the people on his block, or if he helped an old lady back into her house before the shooting started, should we start writing articles about the great things LA gangs are doing these days?

    Before you object to the comparison, consider that the TSA is, for all intents and purposes, engaged in unlawful conduct. But for the perverse interpretation of their patdowns as an “administrative search” they are clearly in violation of every traveler’s Fourth Amendment rights and, in many cases, guilty of plain old assault.

    Smiling before the attack doesn’t turn assault into a hug.

  • Robert Hollis Weber

    So the point of your post is that while Grandma is still getting felt-up, there are some Really Nice People out there doing the groping? C’mon, Chris, you can do better.

  • Chris, that’s passive-aggressive nonsense, and you know it. Critics, myself included, are not assailing your ability as a consumer advocate, but rather, we wish to point out that you have seemingly reversed your position on the TSA–you used to advocate for the security procedures we had pre-9/11, when TSA did not exist, and you used to remind folks, all the time, that what keeps us safe today are reinforced, locked cockpit doors and a planeful of passengers who will no longer submit to terrorists’ demands but rather, who fight back and quickly overcome the threat, which is exactly what happened with the shoe bomber and the undies bomber. You used to remind folks, regularly, that TSA have never caught a terrorist.

    This is too important an issue to play devil’s advocate (quite literally). That’s what is so jarring about this post. Your talents as a writer and voice for the consumer have nothing to do with it.

  • Marilyn

    Because of my knee replacements, I always have to be patted down or go through the x-ray if one is there. Almost always the agents who have conducted the pat down have been very pleasant, professional, and kind. They make sure that all of my belongings are carried to a place where I can see them at all times so I don’t have to worry about anything being lost or stolen. I don’t think having to pat down my body is any thrill for them either. There is the occasional grumpy agent, but who knows what that person had to endure previously that day. Some of the TSA rules don’t make a lot of sense to me, but the agents aren’t the ones who made up the rules.

  • TMMao

    Had that happen once too — never did find out why I was singled out but they didn’t do a screening either. My guess is it was a random method of seeing if the passenger would squirm or do something suspicious. I just pulled out a book and read for those 20 minutes….

  • RonBonner

    So you are outraged over TSA practices but feel it’s important to talk them up.

    I’m confused!

  • Susan Richart

    When a war is being fought, you don’t suddnely give aid and comfort to the enemy.

  • Susan Richart

    And now add Shane Hinkle to the list of TSA employees arrested for sexual abuse.

  • RonBonner

    Dealing with the public happens in many jobs and is not a horrendous job, it’s how a large part of workers make a living. Now if those jobs entailed sticking their hands in peoples pants for no reason, using electronic strip search machines, being abusive, or other such things like TSA does then push back would be expected and if the company wanted to stay in business they would adjust their practices. TSA has been less than responsive to the concerns of travelers and in fact has escalated the abuses forced on the public.

    As far as talking up TSA or saying many within TSA are good guys well I look at it differently.

    Cancer in a body will eventually kill the host all while millions of healthy cells still exist.

    TSA is a CANCER!

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