What Really Goes on Behind Airport Security Lines

Don’t Forget to Take Your Shoes Off

Sick of those long lines at the TSA airport security checkpoints? And sick of being nagged about liquids and shoes?

You are not alone.

TSA Haters are Out There

Take a quick look at the TSA Blog – and I recommend it highly – it is filled with useful information and explanations.

It’s also filled with a lot of searing critiques of the TSA, such as – it’s an “abysmal failure.”

But that’s doesn’t stop TSA spokesman Nico Melendez and colleagues from sticking to their mission of trying to keep our skies safe.

I caught up with him recently, at Los Angeles International Airport and we had a very interesting chat. In fact he told me things I either didn’t know or had forgotten and I’d like to share them now with you.

He also told me a few things I didn’t know or I’d forgotten. Maybe these will surprise you too.

Six Surprises About Those Airport Security Lines

Some of these you’ll know, too but others I think may come as a surprise to you.

1. Even TSA Officers Goof While Traveling

Exhibit A is…Nico Melendez.  I went to a couple checkpoints and I forgot a couple of things,” he said. “Sometimes, you just forget.” You do indeed. And unless you want that $70 gift bottle of wine to go down a TSA drain, leave it home or ship it ahead. For shampoos and such, use a 3.4 ounce bottle – that’s the limit.

2. Creeping Lines are Due in Part to the Public

You know all those signs telling you to take off your shoes? There’s a problem with those signs – and with us passengers too. “People don’t read the signs,” says Melendez. But then, he’s already said he sometimes misses them to and – so do I, so do I.

Of course, a lot of people don’t fly very often, and confusion means delay. Things weren’t helped when airlines started charging for that first checked-bag back in 2008, which was right around the time the TSA came up with the liquid ban.

3. Yes, the TSA Does Staff Per Airline Schedules

Ever wondered why can’t the TSA can’t staff it’s lines according to airline schedules, so they’ll have more people working during busy periods and maybe those lines will inch along a little faster?

Surprise – they do. Now whether it’s enough people, is another matter.

4. Your Bag? It’s been screened.

The TSA’s Melendez was firm on this subject: “We screen 100 percent of the bags.”

5. Handcuffs are Okay by Security – Just Ask Lady Gaga

Who else but Lady Gaga would try to bring handcuffs through security – and succeed? That’s because, it’s no problem! According to the TSA Blog, if a passenger wants to tie someone’s hands behind their bag, you don’t need handcuffs – so, go ahead, bring ’em on.

6. Plenty More Security After the Checkpoint

In fact, there are four more layers:

  • Random checks at the gate
  • Explosive-sniffing dogs
  • Air Marshals on some flights
  • Armed pilots (trained by the TSA) in some cockpits

No, I haven’t mentioned those body scanning machines at the airport, have I – but we did indeed talk about them – and I will be writing about that soon. Plus, you’ll see video of me going through one.

More from Rick Seaney:

Seven Secrets Behind TSA Airport Checkpoints


Published: October 13, 2010