6 Good Things, 6 Bad Things about the TSA Airport Security

The Transportation Security Administration is only a little more than a decade old but it almost immediately began polarizing a lot of the traveling public. Let’s take a look at the latest from the TSA, and maybe find some new reasons to appreciate airport security – and look at areas where it could use some vast improvement.

TSA: More Hated than the IRS?

1. Security ‘targets’

Good thing: Congressman Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) says we need to ease up on security when it comes to scrutinizing well-known individuals like former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and singer Beyonce: “She’s not going to blow up a plane,” he said, and I agree.

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Bad thing: Should celebrities get a pass merely because they’re celebrities? To some, this smacks of profiling which the TSA (and others) have long said doesn’t work.

2. TSA ‘satisfaction’ poll

Good thing: According to a new survey by a national travel agency group, 66 percent of flyers say they are satisfied with airport security. Nearly 75 percent said they had no concerns about TSA body scan machines.

Bad thing: 17 percent still remain dissatisfied with security but it’s an improvement from the 22 percent who were unhappy the year before. Plus, Europe has banned some of the body scan machines still in use in U.S. airports.

An End to Those Too-Personal Pat-Downs?

3. New security tool

Good thing: The TSA wants a new hand-held scanning device to help eliminate pat-downs.

Bad thing: It could be years before we’ll actually see such a tool being used at the airport.

4. Complaints down

Good thing: The Department of Transportation’s latest figures on the number of TSA complaints were tiny compared to the number of passengers screened – 669 complaints about courtesy and personal property compared to 53 million people screened.

Bad thing: Did every unhappy flyer have the time or patience to make a complaint? Meanwhile, let’s whittle those numbers down further.

The TSA’s Child Problem

5. Shorter lines

Good thing: Long lines have been sped up for some (including yours truly) thanks to the TSA’s PreCheck program. The faster, keep-your-shoes-on lines are at 15 airports across the country.

Bad thing: 1.5 million are now enrolled in PreCheck but the TSA screens 600 million passengers a year. Plus, to take part, you must be an elite flyer with Alaska, American or Delta, or fork over $100 for a government pre-screening program (but if you fly a lot, it’s worth it). Also note that PreCheck does not guarantee a quicker experience since you still might be required to removed shoes and undergo a pat-down.

6. TSA workforce

Good thing: Most are hardworking and courteous, and my personal experiences with screeners have always been good.

Bad thing: There have been numerous disturbing reports about TSA officers accused of (and in some cases, convicted of) a variety of crimes ranging from bribery to theft and more. A few bad apples? Perhaps, but maybe it’s time for a wholesale review and reorganization of all hiring and training practices.

More from Rick Seaney:

Airport Security: Good, Bad and Beyonce

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Published: June 19, 2012