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