I love how the TSA advertises their blog on the sign to give feedback. I only wish they would talk back.

I love how the TSA advertises their blog on the sign to give feedback. I only wish they would talk back.

It has been a long time since someone checked my ID at the gate before boarding my flight. Sure I am used to showing my ID at the ticket counter, then again when going through security. However, it has not been standard practice showing my ID once more before boarding the plane for a while.

Recently I flew from Seattle down to Tuscon and back. For both flights, we were told that TSA personnel would be checking our IDs before boarding and to have them out. Okay, sure, I guess.

On my first flight the TSA agents started to check IDs from the front of the line and worked their way back. Big problem with this. Quite a few people (including myself) entered in the middle of the line and our IDs were never checked. I wasn’t purposefully avoiding the ID check, but it wasn’t hard to avoid it. What’s the point of doing an ID check when not everyone has their ID actually checked?

I thought this might be a fluke, but the same thing happened when coming back home from Tucson. It is odd since I flew on two different airlines and no other flights around mine were checked. I checked in with people that I know travel a lot and the fine folks on my Twitter and Facebook and found that many others are also being ID checked at the door.

Although my return flight had an ID check, it happened very differently. Just like before, there was an announcement that the TSA would be checking IDs at the gate before boarding. Four agents (yes four) showed up. I guess the ones in Seattle are better trained, since it only took two of them. One just stood by the gate door and looked bored, two were at the front of the line and talked about their work hours and were flirting (really professional). The last was just walking around, but not checking IDs. As the pre-boarding people got on, the two talking agents just welcomed people aboard but didn’t check any IDs. The guy by the door still looked bored and the fourth was just standing by the middle of the line that was forming. Hmm… okay.

Now, it was time for standard boarding and I had my ID out and ready to go. I was one of the first people to board, but they did not check mine or the IDs of those in front of me. What the heck? Was this just a random check of IDs? If so, why did they need to have four people to do it? This just didn’t seem like a good use of resources since my ID had already been checked twice since I got there.

I wasn’t sure, but I sure as heck wanted to find out how these gate ID checks was making anyone safer. I tried to contact multiple TSA spokes people via email and the phone, but after two days, no one has gotten back to me — not even with a “no comment.” Very frustrating since the TSA tries to pretend they want to hear your opinion with their “Talk to the TSA” campaign. Maybe you can just talk to them, but don’t get an answer back?

To play devil’s advocate, I understand there might be information out there I do not know. Maybe they got word that someone was going to get through security and then change tickets with someone else. Not really sure how that would do anything. First off, faking an ID to be looked at quickly by a TSA worker at the gate wouldn’t be that hard to do (just ask kids under 21). Secondly, what good does it do if they do not actually check the IDs?

Talking to others it sounds like my experience of the gate ID check is not unique. Many flights are getting these ID checks and most are being done poorly. Maybe the TSA is trying to be like Columbo and the “bad guys” will keep their guard down. If you are going to do something and spend money on doing it, can I at least ask for them to do it right? Or minimally look like they are doing it right so all those passengers can feel a bit safer?

Image: Michael Gray

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me: [email protected]

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15 Comments

No surprise. None at all. What happens one day, won’t happen the next. What happens at one airport, won’t happen at the next. And they do change, for security reasons, so that procedures are not known. As for the ID checks at the gate, are they required? I’m not so sure that they are but I can’t remember precisely. The only official/required checks are at the security checkpoint when they check ID and verify the name on the ticket. But they do random checks in line at the boarding door, and sometimes at the door of the aircraft. It’s never the same on any given day.

These were probably the vaunted “Behavior Detection Offices” whose work was thoroughly debunked in Nature magazine. Basically BDOs are supposedly capable of picking bad guys (and gals) out of crowd using their finely honed $14.50 an hour skills.

Everything TSA does is a joke, and it would be really funny except for the fact that they actually seem to have consumed the official “TSA IS All Powerful” kool aid.

TSA is the signle greatest threat to civil liberties that we currently have. They have spent billions, harrassed and molested untold travelers, and haven’t caught their first terrorist.

The next time you are getting groped at a checkpoint, realize this: being a convicted felon does not automatically prohibit one from becoming a TSA Agent. They even insisted that the Richmond International Airport grant a security clearance to a person with a conviction for robbery. The TSA threatened the airport with unspecified consequences if it did not issue the felon a badge. Could that TSA agent with his/her hands on your junk be a convicted child molester?

Be afraid, be very afraid.

In the case of the TSA, the appearance of security is more important than actual security.

Who knows, but maybe these guys are distant relatives of some congress critter, “working” their way up the ranks til they earn an even cushier job on the public dole.

It serves double purposes: two fill up the timesheets so that unionization will be easier, and to show presence of force by authoritarian thugs so that the general populace becomes numb to seeing brownshirts everywhere eventually.

It sounds like the TSA jobs are just like the toll booth jobs on the turnpikes. You basically don’t do much work, and the only way to get these jobs is to know someone with political connections. In exchange you usually have to “volunteer” to do some campaign work around election time.

I know it seems like lots of people have TSA horror stories but my experience really hasn’t changed over the last 10 years. I regularly fly from DEN-LAX, DEN-LAS, LAX-JFK and DEN-DCA and its all pretty much the same.. take the laptop out, take your shoes off and walk through… grab your stuff and go…. Have I just been lucky?

So what else is new? TSA is a bag of buearocrats (sp?) who can and do make their own rules and then enforce them at their convenience.
In you post I see no mention of the TSA twits DOING anything with the few IDs that they checked. Did they match names and detals againt a manifest for that flight, or just gaze though the laminated “Government Issued Photo Identifications” that were offered. If the brilliant, hightly trained TSA agent simply looked at the PAX’s offered ID, said Highly Trained TSA agen could legitimetly report only that “…The PAX had what looked like a Governmente Issued ID card.” Perhaps you omitted this part, but in this case, I don’t think so. What is the point of “Checking ID” if is is not checked against the manifest? WTF? The gate agent just did that, or our sorry behinds would not be in the boarding line. Duh?
More than thirty five years ago, I did field and home-visit work for a major utility, in a major city. Very important policy said that one must wear the company-issued photo ID badge at all times, yadayadayada. I pasted a picture of Mickey Mouse over my own photo and wore that badge daily, for nearly SIX YEARS, before being called on it! Public, private, company or government, I went where I wanted to go, with a little tool pouch and literally – A Mickey Mouse ID. I know where TSA found their staff! Do you? Do they? TSA even clains to ‘thoroughly vet’ their staff, yet hires known felons who are again indicted, this time for stealing from the luggage they were supposed to be examining for ‘security threats.’ WTF?? A license to steal and to Cherry Pick before doing so, and wearing a Federal Badge! While I have no desire to steal anything from anyone, that is pretty cool! Can I get a job like that? With education and expereience well beyond the fourth grade, I think I could better that system, easily out-smart the inspectors that inspect the inspectors and be comfortably retired before they finished their coffee. Not my thing, but what an opportunity! TSA means different things to different folks. For many, it is an opportunity – of various types. None of them have much to do with transportation or security. Shame, TSA, Shame Shame Shame.
-Cedarglen

Dan,

Either luck or you’ve managed to hit “good” teams of TSA employees at checkpoints. I take it you don’t get selected for scans so you don’t lose sight of your possessions or get screamed at for opting out? Who knows if it’s luck. I just wish, as a woman who had a better breast exam from the TSA than I get at my doctor, had that kind of luck instead of now rarely traveling and dreading it when I do have to fly and being upset when TSA shows up at my local (not Greyhound – local!) bus stop downtown.

My wife reported they made the same announcement at Boston Logan last night, then didn’t check many IDs.

This process seems extremely strange since you aren’t even required to show an ID at the checkpoint. You will get a more thorough screening if you don’t show ID, but you are still permitted through.

Even though I agree with Steve above, that the TSA is all about making you feel safe, I’m still confused by these ID checks.

As a passenger, even if I had little or no knowledge of how the TSA works, or didn’t fly frequently, going through a third ID check at the gate wouldn’t make me feel any safer than just going through the standard single ID check (or double if you’re checking bags or don’t print your BP online).

Can’t the TSA find a better use of TSOs around the airport?

You don’t need an ID to go through security check point. Isn’t that an interesting fact.

I flew Omaha to SLC. Im a short, overweight, middle aged, white, soccer mom. Not only was I run through the big screening process- ya know the one where they see everything. They did a random check at the gate and I got pulled out of line for them to look through my bag. Funny thing though the TSA agents doing the screening at the three TSA agents were old, fat, and a woman…respectively. They don’t make me feel safe. They don’t look like they could stop anything from happening. We need to rethink how we do this, it’s getting ridiculous.

talkingbyinstal

I had an experience at a gate while waiting to leave Nashville BNA. I was at the front of the line, B or C, and all of a sudden I feel someone grab my backpack. I was wearing it on my back. And I hear something like, “just checking, hold still.” I actually don’t recall whether this TSA agent asked for my ID or not, I was immediately annoyed and looked aroun to know if it was just me they were examining. When I looked around, I saw 5 or so other agents just milling around in the middle of the concourse, kind of looking at all of us, kind of doing nothing and looking completely foolish. The one working TSA agent just sort of annoyed everyone else who was still in line- keep in mind that at least both A lines had already boarded the plane. Completely ridiculous.

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