Hey, good news: The TSA is enhancing its security procedures! Okay, not good news.
Getting Intimate with your TSO
In the name of “airport consistency,” which seems diametrically opposed to its normal “planned inconsistency” policy, the TSA is consolidating its five funky search methods into a single, more “comprehensive,” one. In other words, be prepared for even more touching. In fact, it could get so invasive that the TSA is taking proactive steps to address passengers who feel violated. From the linked article:
Yup. They called the police to say, “By the way, you’re gonna be getting a lot of sexual assault accusations in the near future. You should just ignore those. We’re cool.”
And why, pray tell, are they making such a change?
The pat-down change, first reported Friday by Bloomberg News, is “intended to reduce the cognitive burden on [employees] who previously had to choose from various pat-down procedures depending on the type of screening lane,” the ACI-NA wrote in its notice.
I like that. “Cognitive burden.” It’s a much more polite way of saying “Our employees aren’t bright enough to figure out how to search a passenger. Our next step will be to drop breadcrumbs from the checkpoint to the break room so the TSOs don’t get lost.”*
Remember, this is an organization that recently failed 95% of its internal checks. I don’t expect that number to change for any reason other than regression to the mean.
Avoiding The Hassle
It’s impossible to fully escape the TSA, but they’ll let you buy your way out of the worst of the lines. Of course, almost all of them will cost you (or somebody else) something. Here are the most popular:
- The most effective method is Clear, which scans either your eyes or your fingerprints as a method of identification. The benefit to Clear is that you have a separate line, and/or are guided to the front of the pre-check line. The downside? Clear is only in about 18 airports at this time and charges anywhere from $99-175, although Delta Diamond Medallion members get it for free (Delta is a shareholder in Clear.).
- The “official” TSA product is PreCheck/Global Entry. PreCheck, which costs $85, gets you the special line at the airport which uses a metal detector, allows you to keep your shoes on and your laptop in your bag. For another $15, you get Global Entry, which gets you a fast pass at customs and immigration. While the programs exist at almost every airport, you can still get a “random” beep that requires a patdown, and the sign-up process for getting your card could drive you mad.
- If you don’t want to pay directly for Global Entry directly, several high-end credit cards include a $100 credit toward the benefit, essentially making it free. Most of these cards cost $450-550 per year, so they’re not worth getting just for Global Entry.
The Bottom Line
Rule of thumb: Every time the TSA gets embarrassed in public, the organization will take it out on the only people it can: passengers.
Beginner’s Hint: I’m not a fan of the TSA. It’s a bloated organization that exists solely for the purpose of self-perpetuation, and operates by fear and obfuscation. It generates and enables bullies and thieves. I believe that we need airport security. There are clearly bad people out there who want to harm us. But this is not going to be the organization that catches them. They will, however, prevent The Force from taking over a plane.
Most of the individual TSOs, though, seem pleasant enough. 90% of the time, we chat for a minute and then I go merrily on my way. It’s the other 10% that gives the TSA the reputation that it has.
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