TSA is the bane of my existence. They are the biggest waste of time, in my humble opinion. I realize they have a job to do and I’m not critical of the people who work in the airports (although there’s room for that too), it’s the system. The process of pulling out our liquids and laptops and waiting in long lines for some person to see our boarding pass and ID with little conversation seems to me like a lost opportunity. Part of the screening process should also include questioning passengers. This article in Discover sums it up pretty well.I was traveling through Turkey a few years back and as I was approaching the security checkpoint a man stopped me identifying himself as airport security and asked me some basic questions about my travel plans and recent travel history. It wasn’t confrontational or invasive; in fact, it was so comfortable it was a few minutes in that I realized he’s interrogating me. See, what if my answers weren’t matching my travel documents? What if I appeared nervous or anxious? It might have given him reason to investigate me a little further. But my answers did match and I was calm. He let me pass on through the rest of security including the carry-on bag screening and the x-ray. I’m not questioning the need for airport security, I’m questioning the process. Static systems like x-ray and body scanners can be defeated. Dynamic systems that include a combination of static screening along with passenger interviews have been shown to be more effective and faster overall. The problem is it requires better training and skills that the TSA just doesn’t seem to be invested in.
Part of my frustration is the fact I am constantly being pulled out of line for “random searches.” This also happens to me when I pass through Immigration, so I broke down and applied, and was approved for Global Entry, which includes TSA PreCheck. I cannot overstate how valuable this if you travel at all. The initial application takes around 30 minutes to fill out online. Following that, there are about 2 weeks of wait time, then you can schedule an interview with an Immigration officer (for Global Entry, if you’re applying for just the TSA PreCheck you’ll be interviewed by a TSA Officer, but honestly, the process is similar and the price is nearly the same, might as well just get both if you can).
The last time I traveled to the States through JFK with Global Entry, from the time I got off the plane to the time I was outside the airport getting my Uber, 10 minutes had passed. Now I had no checked bags so I wasn’t stuck waiting for those, but that’s ridiculously fast. On my way back, TSA PreCheck allowed me to just put my bags on the conveyor belt for the scanner, no need to remove my shoes, my laptop or zip lock bag with liquids and gels. The I walked through the x-ray, not that stupid full body scanner, and proceeded to my gate. No more stressing if the security line will move fast enough to avoid hearing my name paged overhead that the doors are closing and I need to be at the gate pronto, although that may be because I get to the airport late…
Overall I’m happy to do my part to expedite the screening process, but there are also processes that should be developed by TSA to be more efficient, just saying.