Navigating TSA Screening Lines
Longest Screening Line May Be Your Best Bet
Are Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents—the ones who are on the front-lines of protecting our airports–misbehaving on the job? Yes, according to a government study.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO), the watchdog arm of Congress, recently released a report that analyzed 9,600 cases of TSA officer misconduct. About 2,800 of those cases were related to attendance issues—excessive tardiness, leaving early, etc. Not the worst infractions, right?
But the GAO also examined 1,900 complaints that were related to security and screening. Now THAT is a problem. We’re talking agents sleeping on the job and even letting friends and family skip proper security checks.
And then there’s the issue of how the TSA has dealt with misbehaving agents. After all, it’s not just about proper employee conduct during screenings, it’s also about proper oversight. The TSA does not track how long cases of misconduct are in the system, nor does it categorize or summarize the violations that do occur. And when you don’t track or monitor violations you are tolerating bad behavior that may be repeated.
The TSA ultimately responded that it agrees with the government’s recommendations, which include conducting reviews of cases and recording all misconduct cases in a central database.
It’s also a question of consequences. In most cases, 47 percent to be exact, these infractions only resulted in letters of reprimand. Thirty-one percent resulted in suspension, and 17 percent led to a removal from the TSA.
This isn’t the first time problems with the TSA have been in the spotlight. A couple of years ago, a congressional inquiry into the TSA identified more than 25,000 airport security breaches over the course of 10 years. That included some 6,000 passengers making it past screening without proper scrutiny.
And over the past several years, we’ve seen a number of high-profile cases involving TSA agents outright stealing from passengers. In fact, one agent who convicted of stealing more than $800,000 of goods from travelers—using X-ray scanners to find valuable items—admitted that this type of theft is “commonplace.”
Now to put this in perspective, there are about 56,000 TSA officers in more than 450 airports around the country. These guys end up screening as many as 1.8 million passengers a day. The real numbers of misbehaving agents is negligible in the grand scheme of things. But here’s the issue I have with the TSA: They’re not allowed to think on the job. Intuition, reasoning, common sense, when these elements are eliminated from a task, it becomes robotic, tedious…and BORING. Is it any wonder that agents are falling asleep on the job?
Travel tip: When you get to the screening area and have an option for which line you want, most of you might choose the shortest line. And that might be a mistake. Instead, don’t make your choice based on the shortness of the line, but by the number of TSA officers monitoring the security screens near the conveyor belt. If there’s one officer looking at the security screen — even if the line is longer — pick that line. If there are two officers watching the screen, that most likely means they are training one of them, and EVERY bag gets stopped on the belt for further inspection.