It’s time to trust the TSA

Minerva/Shutterstock
Minerva/Shutterstock
The TSA offered Sue Speck an early Christmas present when she checked in for a recent flight from Columbus to Los Angeles: a coveted Precheck designation on her boarding pass, which allowed her to avoid removing her shoes, taking out her laptop and most important, get around the agency’s dreaded full-body scanners when she was screened.

“It was easy,” says Speck, a sales administrative assistant who lives in Columbus. “There was no line.”

So easy that she found herself wishing for Precheck privileges on her next flight, even though she didn’t belong to the exclusive program.

Stories of heartwarming customer service at the latex-gloved hands of the TSA seem to be common during the holiday travel season. The agency assigned to protect America’s transportation systems is inviting passengers to experience its faster, more civil Precheck lines, even those who haven’t paid for a membership. It’s turning airport screening areas into hotel lobbies, featuring mood lighting, designer furniture and artwork. Its agents seem to be on their best behavior.

The charm offensive is meant to send a clear message: You can trust the TSA again.

That’s exactly what travelers should do.

They can trust the TSA to do what it always promised — to offer what it calls “random and unpredictable” security measures throughout the airport. Apparently, that means giving away Precheck to untold thousands of air travelers who never asked for it. Maybe it’s just a coincidence that the TSA recently announced the opening of a new enrollment center and a new site to accept applications at $85 a pop. If the agency’s goal is to sell more Precheck memberships by letting non-elites such as Speck crowd the fast lane, look for a large “Mission Accomplished” banner at your airport in 2014.

But even card-carrying frequent fliers who already belong to Precheck know their cards offer no assurances they’ll avoid intrusive TSA screenings reserved for mere mortals, where they’re forced to unpack liquids and gels, take off their shoes, then make the agonizing choice between an invasive full-body scan or an “enhanced” pat-down. No one is guaranteed expedited screening to retain “a certain element of randomness” to prevent terrorists from gaming the system, according to the agency.

Travelers can also trust the TSA to stay true to its core values. Sure, the re-imagined checkpoints in Charlotte and Dallas are impressive. They feature plush red couches where you can put your shoes back on, and full-length mirrors where you can replace your jacket after your screening. There’s mood lighting and alt-rock pumped in, all designed to calm passengers, says the TSA. Best of all, the agency isn’t paying for any of it. Marriott’s SpringHill Suites is picking up the tab in exchange for the advertising opportunity.

But makeovers aren’t really the TSA’s thing. Remember what happened in 2008, when the agency switched from its plain white uniforms with embroidered logos to its current royal-blue shirts and gold badges, which made screeners look like police officers? A few months later, the agency implemented some of its most unpopular policies, which led to protests such as National Opt-Out Day. When passengers see changes, they worry — and with good reason.

What about the kinder, gentler TSA that some passengers have reported? For example, one reader recently told me he witnessed a group of World War II veterans who were not only being screened in a thoughtful and compassionate way, but that the agents also took the time to thank each GI for his service. It’s these stories that are the hardest to reconcile with our traditional image of TSA agents barking orders at passengers as they’re being herded like cattle through the screening area.

Then again, wouldn’t you behave if you were on probation? As a series of Congressional reports makes clear, this agency is on the government’s “naughty” list. One study concluded the TSA is a bloated, top-heavy agency in need of reform. Another, released last month, found that the agency’s behavior-detection program, which has cost $900 million since 2007, doesn’t work and recommends that Congress “limit future funding” for the program.

You can trust the TSA to do whatever is necessary to keep itself from being defunded, privatized or eliminated. Even if it means sending random passengers to its Precheck line, remodeling its checkpoints or treating a select few with the dignity we all deserve.

Do you trust the TSA?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

HOW TO PRECHECK

What is it? Precheck is the TSA’s expedited screening program. It allows passengers to leave on shoes, light outerwear and belts, keep laptops in their cases and have bags of regulation-size liquids and gels in their carry-ons.

Where can you use it? Precheck lines are available at more than 100 airports. Participating carriers include Alaska Airlines, American, Delta, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest, United, US Airways and Virgin America.

How much does it cost? The $85 application fee is valid for a five-year membership in the program.

How do you enroll? Apply at universalenroll.dhs.gov or in person at Indianapolis International Airport.

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at Cavalrytravelinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Send this to a friend