Monday, October 3, 2016

An open letter to TSA

Open Letter to TSA;

After traveling this weekend by air, my observations of TSA is things aren't getting any better for them.  The organization is still centered around preventing another 9/11 and as such, all of their methods and techniques revolve around that particular scenario.  The moral of a typical TSA screener is akin to a prisoner doing hard time.  Moral is not helped by the ridiculous testing standards and micromanagement that can get an agent written up for the smallest infractions.

In the last six months, I have been the TSA screening process at Columbus, San Antonio, Dayton and Jacksonville, FL.  Each time the experience was pretty much the same, search checked baggage for explosives.  Search carry-on bags for banned items.  Have passengers remove belts and shoes and go through full body scanner.  Move along, move along.  Hardly the stuff to recruit young, vibrant workers towards your agency!

In my admittedly small sample group, not once did any TSA employee engage passengers.  Everything was robotic, no conversation.  No smiles.  Just do as we say.  Everything spoken was done from rote and sounded like a recording instead of being uttered by a human.  Not a single TSA employee looked happy (by far the saddest ones are the lone TSA agents posted at the exit points.  It makes you ask yourself, "Who did you piss off to get stuck out here?"

The TSA approach of "guilty until proven innocent" stresses both passengers as well as employees.  It also causes TSA to miss opportunities to learn more about passenger behaviors.  I saw no one being friendly towards a TSA agent so the agents aren't friendly back.  Ask any cop, getting people to talk is an invaluable tool.  TSA could be getting so much more information but quite frankly, their approach sucks.

Few if any of the TSA agents make eye contact with passengers other than the BDOs (behavior detection officers) who stick out like sore thumbs because they are the only ones looking (more like glaring).  In most other countries, the role of the BDO is unobtrusive.  You will never know who is looking any everyone conduction the screening is engaged with the passengers.  Not because they are friendlier than TSA but because each one knows they could be the one to discover a vital indicator that the passenger is a threat.

TSA spends ridiculous amounts on technology and manpower.  It also adds ridiculous amounts of time to travel and causes delays in flights without any evidence to show that it was necessary in the first place.  TSA needs to seriously revamp itself.

First, get rid of the quasi-police looking uniforms.  TSA agents aren't law enforcement and shouldn't pretend to be.  Perhaps a polo shirt and cargo pants would be too informal but the current uniform creates an "us vs them" impression.  Second, stop looking just for explosives and start looking more for "tells".  Not everyone traveling is a threat so learn to look for those that are (can't figure that out?  I'd go ask the Israelis for a start).  Single those out for additional screenings and let the rest go through.  Third, and perhaps most importunely, GET OVER YOURSELVES!  Your grim determination is off-putting and ineffective at doing what your are supposed to be doing; making passengers feel safer!  Passengers are tired, stressed they may miss their flight, and many are traveling with small children or infirmed family members. They aren't in the best mood and really don't care for your grim, save-the-world attitude.  If however you learned how to be friendly, you would not only improve the gathering of information but your employees moral improve as well (don't know where to start?  Go talk to Disney.  They seem to have it figured out pretty well)

Screening should make us feel safer, not aid in turning travelers into anti-social hooligans.

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