TSA Turns 10: What’s Changed and What Needs to Change?

 @MarkJohansonIBT
on November 16 2011 5:11 PM
TSA
TSA officers were no match for a nine-year-old boy from Minneapolis, who slipped through without a ticket and caught a flight to Las Vegas last Thursday. Reuters

A new survey from the U.S. Travel Association reveals that four of the top five air traveler frustrations relate to the checkpoint process. Yet, it also reveals that the majority of travelers are supportive of recent initiatives to improve traveler facilitation by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

The survey, commissioned by the U.S. Travel Association to mark the 10th anniversary of TSA, was released at a press conference at Washington Reagan National Airport on Wednesday.

I want to thank the men and women of TSA for a decade of dedicated service, U.S. Travel's President and CEO Roger Dow said. While we recognize the significant steps TSA has taken to improve security screening, the process still remains inefficient and frustrating for millions of Americans.

Travelers' top frustrations include:

People who bring too many carry-on bags through the security checkpoint. (72.4 percent)

The wait time to clear the TSA checkpoint. (68 percent)

Having to remove shoes, belts and jackets at the TSA checkpoint. (62.3 percent)

TSA employees who are not friendly. (42.5 percent)

Frustrations aside, Dow noted that Americans are generally satisfied with TSA's overall performance as it relates to security. Sixty-six percent of air travelers are satisfied with TSA's work in security, and only 13 percent of those surveyed were dissatisfied.

Lisa Farbstein, spokesperson for TSA, said the organization was largely pleased with the results.

The survey reflects a series of new risk-based initiatives like the PreCheck program and an improved passenger experience for travelers under 12, she told IBTimes.

Farbstein also noted that wait times have decreased dramatically. Over the last seven years, checkpoint screening has taken less than 20 minutes for 98 percent of passengers, she said.

She was dismayed that travelers commented on TSA employees who are not friendly.

As always, we strive to treat every passenger with dignity and respect and when an issue is brought to our attention, we follow up and try to correct the situation. I think the vast majority of people see professional treatment by our employees.

Farbstein spoke of a TSA employee at Albany International Airport who found a large sum of cash at the security checkpoint on Tuesday and went out of his way to find its owner.

Nice things happen at airports across the nation every day, she said. You never hear about these things on the news.

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The U.S. Travel Association said one of the most important goals for the next year will be reducing the hassle of flying without compromising security.

When we do, more Americans will travel and our economy will benefit, Dow said. If travelers took just two to three more trips a year, it would generate $85 billion in travel and spending and support 880,000 additional jobs.

The organization recommended that airlines allow more opportunities for enrolment in the PreCheck program and not discriminate against consumers who aren't members of their loyalty programs. Furthermore, U.S. Travel Association said airlines need to help TSA and the travel industry to decrease the number of carry-on bags going through passenger checkpoints.

The number of carry-on bags has soared 50 percent since airlines began charging fees for checked luggage in 2008, according to TSA statistics. Eighty-seven million more carry-ons were brought on planes in fiscal year 2011 than in 2010. This dramatic increase has led to longer lines and a strained TSA.

TSA's 10th birthday on Nov. 19 will be a day for those on both ends of the travel industry to reflect -- a day to look back on what has changed in the past 10 years and what needs to change as the administration heads into its pre-teen years.

What do you think about TSA's record over the past 10 years? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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