Sunday, August 29, 2010

Interesting string of events

So a rather interesting chain of events has started happening at my airport. Five weeks ago a woman tried to come through security with a concealed box cutter blade. She was caught and taken out in handcuffs for the object being concealed on her body (also illegal to conceal prohibited items in an attempt to bypass a federal checkpoint). One week later, another lady comes through with a can of mace (not pepper spray, mace. illegal to carry in my state). She was also arrested for concealing a prohibited item. Then, last week some guy comes through with a decent sized knife concealed in his carry on bag. He was caught as well and escorted out in handcuffs.

I guess the odd thing is normal people are getting more gutsy with what they will try to bring through security. It doesn't make any sense since my airport always seems to catch these things and the people responsible always get arrested. Why would people with actual lives and families risk something like that? No one in their right mind would try to bring a gun into a court house, why would an airport be any different?

Airports have never (at least within the past 30 years) allowed people to bring guns or other harmful objects onto airplanes. Why does everyone act like these rules are so new?

Monday, March 8, 2010

A change

I'm changing this blog officially to "The Life and Times of an Airport Screener". I've realized that travel help really doesn't have much of a following, and I'd like to be on this blog for the long haul. I also came to the conclusion that the musings of a disgruntled airport screener might be more entertaining than assistance with the airlines or security. I will still offer travel tips and help, but only by request or if I find something that could prove helpful to the traveling public. I just can't see many people following a blog about travel tips, and long time travelers learn the new procedures or helpful tips when they hit the airports. So, I'm spinning off to the entertainment side of things.

So, starting today, less boring and more interesting.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Interesting moments at work

While at work today, the common question from passengers seemed to be "Is all of this security really necessary?"

When posed with such questions I start to think in depth about the different aspects of my job, and what the organization I work for tries to accomplish. First and foremost before I begin, I have to admit that I do not believe that TSA is without it's faults. I do, however, feel that TSA is doing a much better service than the private companies provided. Also, with the evolving threat, I believe TSA is doing a decent job of keeping its employees informed and trained to provide a proactive screening environment.

Back to the original question though, I believe that TSA is an evolution of sorts that has come around because of the ever evolving terrorist threat. When I say evolving terrorist threat, I don't mean just the terrorist groups like Al Queda, I refer to the home-grown extremists who sympathize with terrorist group causes or create their own missions. The extremist group that was just taken down in Detroit and Dearborn, Michigan are the types I'm talking about. The entire law enforcement community is keeping a close watch on newly forming and existing groups because of the compounding threat they pose to the peaceful public.

I think TSA gets a lot of flak from the public because they don't discriminate with their screening process and they are still a young agency buffing out the finer details to their procedures. Everyone regardless of race, religion, age, sex, sexuality, etc. gets patted down and searched the same as the next person. I think some people feel like TSA treats everyone like a terrorist instead of like a fine upstanding citizen. Unfortunately, the people that think this way have come across some of the less customer service friendly officers.

To me, the TSA is necessary because no one else was stepping up to fill the holes that caused 9/11. The private security company became too relaxed, and even though they received multiple fines from the FAA every time they let a prohibited item through the checkpoint, it doesn't seem like they did much to step things up. The TSA seems much more organized and willing to be held accountable for it's actions. If someone by chance loses focus and let's something pass, that officer has to undergo training and guidance to make sure it never happens again.

TSA's mission:
"The Transportation Security Administration protects the Nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce."

I like this mission statement because it gives me the vision of an ideal security checkpoint. A passenger comes through and receives fast, accurate, and thorough screening and hopefully the experience yields one of two scenarios. One being that the impact of going through a TSA checkpoint is so small that after the passenger is finished they forget it even happened. The other case being that the customer service was so great that the passenger is actually happy about TSA's presence and leaves having enjoyed the quick process. I know it isn't always possible, but most of us are trying for at least one of these two goals.

So when asked why I believe the TSA is necessary, I respond with another question.

"Who else is going to make sure you get safely from point A to point B?"

Some Basics - Part 1

There are some very important basics to traveling that can potentially turn any trip into a disaster without preparation. In this series I'll be doing my best to elaborate on just about every aspect of travel from booking, to check in, to security, to finally planting your bottom in the comfy seat on the way to your destination. Between posts I'll answers questions about any segment of the travel process. Lets start with booking.

Booking a flight is pretty simple nowadays. With multiple options available from booking in person, over the phone, or online you can rest assured that you'll get that boarding pass. I have personally used all three methods and I would be happy to share the pros and cons. Although most people will end up booking online, I feel it never hurts to give a little depth.

Getting things together in person presents a significant hassle and is the least recommended way of obtaining your reservation. You are presented with a unique opportunity though. Booking in person allows you the potential of haggling your ticket price. Most likely you're going to have to get a supervisor involved, but saving some cash is not outside of the realm of possibility. Just remember to stay firm yet polite when asking them to drop a couple of bucks off your ticket price. Most ticket agents appreciate kindness more than anyone could imagine, considering the stress they have to endure when re-booking a canceled flight, and are more apt to assist a passenger with a glowing smile and attitude to match. You'll receive extra attention as far as booking and explanations for questions as most ticket agents are willing to spend the time it takes to get you all set. So this is definitely a preferred method for anyone that has any doubts about their flight booking abilities. Just don't forget that you'll likely have to pay for parking while you're there and comparing prices between airlines can be a time consuming process.

Going through the process by phone can provide a similar experience as booking in person without having to pay for parking. You can expect the ticket agent on the other end of the line to be just as helpful as these call centers are set up specifically for people who want to book by phone. This means you won't have an employee that is worrying about other tasks or wanting to rush your check in experience. Chances are, you won't run into any discounts, but comparing prices will be much easier. This method has it's uses mostly when you need to reserve a seat but don't have access to a computer or time to run into the airport. Any phone, any where, any time really has it's conveniences.

Clicking through the reservation process online has become faster than ever. Just about every airline has a website these days with a quick and simple booking process. Click your starting city, click the destination, set the date and number of passengers and voila, you're set. Most of them even have the ability to pair you up with a hotel and a rental car if the need arises. If the airline's website doesn't, sites like Orbitz and Travelocity always have great rates and even package deals from time to time. It's also possible to have multiple web pages open at the same time making price comparison the easiest through this method. If you don't have many questions, and prefer a speed and easy customization, online is the way to go.

When it comes down to it, all three methods can yield the same result, you getting where you want to go at a decent price.

An Introduction

Welcome to my blog. I will do my best here to assist people in making the airport check in, security screening, and other amenities easy to handle. I have over ten years of experience working for different companies in the airport, and currently work for the TSA. If anyone has any questions, feel free to send them along and I will be more than happy to elaborate on the matter. One thing to remember is that some of the procedures in the TSA have been deemed sensitive security material, and thus I can not discuss these topics. I will, however, do my best to answer those questions with as much info as possible.