We All Pay For The TSA

My mom missed her Saturday morning flight this weekend because it took 1.5 hours to get through security at Minneapolis-St. Paul International. That’s a lot longer than it typically takes to get through security there. She called me when she landed in Colorado and told me what happened.

MSP has 6 security checkpoints on the ticketing level (where all the ticket counters are). They aren’t all open all the time, of course, but usually security can cope quite well with the volume of travelers going through the airport. I imagine this is because the airport has organized the checkpoint schedules based on average traffic and because, when one checkpoint has a lot of traffic, airport workers often redirect travelers to less busy checkpoints.

Sometimes, some of the metal detectors/full-body scanners at a checkpoint are closed off for “priority” travelers. This was the case on Saturday. You would think that airport officials, airline workers and security personnel would redirect travelers to fully operational checkpoints because no one likes to deal with a bunch of people who have missed their flights. Unfortunately, no one bothered to redirect travelers to the other checkpoints and many people in line with my mom missed their flights on Saturday morning.

The thing is, travelers plan ahead based on experience and the guidelines given to them. If security normally takes 15 minutes to get through, people plan for 20-30 minutes to get through security (in addition to whatever other time allowances they make – e.g. for checking baggage) giving themselves “more than enough time.” Many travelers even opt to get to the airport with more time than that, though most people of my acquaintance do not give themselves more than an hour and a half ahead of departure time for a domestic flight. I cannot, then, blame the travelers who missed their flights. they expected security to flow as it normally does and for people working at the airport to keep this flow going.

On Saturday, it would seem that no one redirected any passengers. That’s the first issue I see. The second is this “priority” crap. The TSA is in charge of security at MSP. The TSA is a government agency, meaning all taxpayers are funding it. Who exactly gets to go through priority screening?

One Possibility: If it’s via the TSA Pre-Check program, I want to know who qualifies. While I understand the lack of information is supposed to be for security purposes, I don’t think it’s fair to expect the public to believe Delta Skymiles and other frequent flyer programs are choosing customers for Pre-Check based on non-profit-oriented criteria. In other words, I have a hard time believing Delta would choose people like me as equally or fairly as they would choose wealthier individuals by basing their choices solely on TSA criteria. I also have a hard time believing the TSA criteria could be entirely fair to all income levels.

Second Possibility: If this “priority” security has anything to do with “first class” boarding passes, there’s a serious problem. Not everyone pays the same amount in taxes, but our citizenship and our rights do not depend on our contributions. I do not think, then, that wealthier individuals (those flying business/first class) should be allowed to go through priority screening when everyone else has to go through the regular screening (which has slowed down because of the “priority” lanes).

The amount of incompetence this seems to indicate is really irritating. I’m not just mad because my mom missed her flight. I’m mad because this could happen to any and all airline passengers (except priority flyers), and no one seemed to take any interest in preventing it.

In case you’re wondering, I do know that these priority lanes were not for airline employees – there is a separate security point for pilots, flight attendants and other employees at MSP.

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