It's fun to hate on the TSA—but stop the blame game


It’s fun to hate the TSA. After all, they are a traveler’s favorite punching bag because of something we can all pretty much agree upon: Security lines are the worst.

After weeks of negative press and discord, the government announced it’s dismissed the organization’s head of security, a move that is sure to mollify the sheeply masses. However, it fails to address the root cause of the TSA’s inability to provide a stable and fast-moving security check point system.

Not surprising. America has become a land where people simply digest headlines and put little or no thought into actual cause. Our sound-bite culture has infiltrated our brains and most Americans think in sound bites, rather than carefully thinking through issues. And it drives me bonkers.

For example, the masses complain about failing schools, saying it’s because we’re not spending enough money. “We need to spend more!” is the rallying cry. Yet those same people ignore the real issue: the way money is spent may be wrong and the teaching methodologies involved should probably be updated. We can dedicate more and more resources to the issue, but unless we make real change, it winds up being a Band-Aid, hiding, but not fixing the festering wound beneath.

Casting Blame

That’s what’s happening at security check points all over the country. We simply cast blame without regard for finding actual solutions.

Here’s what’s really happening with the TSA that we as a nation are not addressing.

First, a disclaimer: I have said many negative things about the TSA over the years because I, too, was frustrated. Plus, I hate feeling like a criminal when I go through security. My blood pressure rises and I’m always nervous. I also think the notion of absolute security is fiction; there is no such thing. And whoever is in charge of airport security is there to assuage the masses with the perception of security, rather than actually delivering security.

The TSA is an organization in an impossible situation. They never get credit for anything positive, because every day nothing negative happens—and that is the norm. It’s only when bad things happen that they come under fire. Think about how you would feel if no matter how amazing you were at your job, the best result is just not getting lambasted in national media.

They’re stuck in the middle of an endless blame game they cannot possibly win. These past few weeks, major media soutlets roasted the TSA, and it is not all their fault.

Blame the Airlines

It’s the airlines faults, too. Last year, the airlines raked in $3.8 billion in baggage fees. They would have made billions more, but millions of travelers now choose not to check a bag. That significantly drives up wait times, as extra bags require lots of extra time.

Yesterday, American Airlines boasted about how they are pitching in $4 million to help with bin-and-queue management. Here’s some perspective: They took in $1.1 billion in bag fees last year alone, but American Airlines flies to more than 80 U.S. destinations, meaning that $4 million actually equates to about $137 per airport, per day, or less than it costs to check seven bags.

What a joke! If they really wanted to help they would be encouraging people to check bags free of charge. But no, they want their cake and to eat it, too.

Blame the Customers

The other dominant issue is the traveling public simply isn’t paying attention. There are millions of very infrequent travelers that seem more confused about what do than a straight man at a Chippendale’s show. Though TSA employees constantly bellow the rules, they still put bags through with bottles of water and shampoos the size of two-liter soda bottles. And why are people wearing 20 pounds of jewelry in an airport and then leave it on when going through a metal detector?! People are just mentally checked out (maybe I need to write a column on the entitlements people feel these days and how it’s dragging us all down), and don’t care about anything but themselves.

No wonder these low-paid TSA workers get surly. I am sure they were fine the first 200 times they asked people to remove their metal-studded cowboy boots, but by the 201st time, it’s game on.

There are times I wish line workers would use more common sense, like not frisking that wheelchair-bound grandma. That is just lack of judgement; another thing we have removed from society in general.

Finally, we need to solve this precheck issue, something near and dear to my heart. There are not nearly enough people enrolled and the hotel industry has an opportunity to take a leadership role here, and earn more profits doing the right thing. That’s going to be my next column you can read, here, later in the week. So stay tuned.

But for now it’s up to you all out there to tell me why I am insanely wrong or, alternatively, provide me with some reasons why the TSA shouldn’t be the media’s whipping boy. Find me at [email protected] or on Twitter and Instagram @TravelingGlenn

Glenn Haussman is editor-at-large for HOTEL MANAGEMENT. His views expressed are not necessarily those of HOTEL MANAGEMENT, its parent company Questex Media Group, and/or its subsidiaries.