Maybe The Average Traveler Is Okay With The TSA, But Frequent Fliers? Not So Much

We’re up, we’re down, we approve of the job the Transportation Security Administration is doing (or, if you took our poll, 82.5% of our readers who responded actually don’t think so) and now someone else is saying the TSA is mucking it up at our nation’s airports. That’s according to frequent fliers who were asked about the topic in a new survey released today.

While a previous survey said the average traveler was cool with the TSA’s security measures, people who fly all the time have a different view. A total of 56% of frequent fliers said they were not satisfied with their last TSA experiences according to a survey conducted by online magazine Frequent Business Traveler (by way of the Chicago Tribune).

Then there were the 19% who were all lumped together in the results who said they’re satisfied, very satisfied or extremely satisfied. Or to put it another way — any kind of satisfied in any amount.

When it comes to the overall question of how well the TSA is doing at its job of airport security screenings, 57% of frequent travelers said it was doing a poor job, 34% rated it fair, 8% said it was good, and 1% called the agency’s work as excellent.

Something to be taken into consideration regarding Gallup’s earlier survey: While that one found that 54% of travelers think the TSA is doing a good or excellent job, if you’re hanging out with the TSA more as a frequent flier, your sum experience might add up differently. FBT’s poll surveyed people who average 16.3 trips per year, as opposed to the 2.1 trips per traveler in the Gallup poll.

Many frequent travelers say TSA is doing poor job [Chicago Tribune]


Edit Your Comment

  1. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    I don’t travel nearly as much as I used to…but at the peak of my flight status I was Platinum for a couple years in a row.

    I can say this…the poll is misleading from the start. The concept of whether or not the TSA is “doing a good job” is actually not the point. And I don’t know how well-qualified that is, anyway. What is meant by “doing a good job?” That they properly force people to put their toothpaste into small baggies? That they aren’t physically asleep at the scanner? That they correctly point out that you need to take your shoes off?

    The real question to ask is whether or not the TSA serves any purpose. Which they don’t. Although probably the vast numbers of sheeple in this country are probably sufficiently eye-wooled to buy into the theater.

    The fact of the matter is that the TSA is nothing but theater. This emperor has no clothes.

    So, as a former frequent flier, I had all their little charades down pat…I could pretty much zip right through the security lines with my boots and belt appropriately (and uselessly) scanned through the machine, and at the end of the day, it generally made not much impact on my day.

    So are they “doing a good job?” Maybe…in as much as they’re doing what they have been told that TSA security checkpoints should be doing. They seem to be doing those things. The problem is that their “job” is as useless as tits on a bull.

    • lyontaymer30 says:

      You raise alot of good points. I had open ended questions like that where you only have yes or no to answer. Something like that you can’t leave to yes or no. Because if you grade them on how they do their job, I’m pretty sure the number wouldn’t be that high. I’m willing to bet the majority of people who answer took the question as “Do you like the TSA?” or “Does the TSA make you feel safer?”

    • bluline says:

      I couldn’t agree more.

      One of the key issues with the TSA is that they’ve purposely hired uneducated people (you don’t even have to have a high school diploma) who follow directions as well as any robot but aren’t smart enough or empowered enough to make common-sense decisions on the fly. To them, everything is either black or white. There’s never any gray, and thus they don’t have the ability or means to adapt to an evolving environment.

      And then there’s the issue of rules and procedures that aren’t consistent from screener to screener or even from airport to airport. Even frequent flyers are often confused because something that is permitted by one screener or airport is not permitted by another screener or at a different airport. That leads to confusion and to customer dissatisfaction, not to mention poor overall security.

    • Mi Poo says:

      I’m going to disagree with you here. Tits on a bull would be much more useful than the job being done by the TSA.

    • euph_22 says:

      The TSA is not just theater. 95% theater perhaps, but an actual legitimate security function does seep through the cracks. They DO keep (some) weapons and dangerous items off planes, they DO keep (some) people with fake id’s off planes, they do catch drugs and prevent crimes and help catch criminals. They don’t do any of this particularly well, but they do do them.

      And the real question is, what is the alternative? We need security for air travel. We need checkpoints and inspections (not enhanced pat downs and body scanners necessarily). We don’t need the security theater, but we need the actual security. We need the TSA (or a TSA like agency). They just need to suck less completely.

      Focus less on the mindless procedural minutiae and the “obnoxious security is effective security” mindset. We should adopt more of the “human factor” approach to security that the Israeli’s use (it’s basically akin to community policing, the security people are more effective if they interact with people instead of moving them around like cattle). We need to fire the pompous blowhards that think we are safer by hiring nobody but other pompous blowhards and train them in pompous blowhardery.

      Again. I’m not defending the TSA in anyway. The agency is screwed up from top to bottom, and has been from the get go. I’m just saying that they fill a roll that needs to be filled, and that is a practical impossibility to fill with anybody else.

      • Lt. Coke says:

        As many others have pointed out in a multitute of threads on many websites: The US is not Israel. It’s much bigger, it handles many, many more travellers. Israel trains it’s security personnel much more thoroughly than the US ever could. It’s not because we such at training people, but we live in a country of 400 million people, with millions going through airports every day. How do you have personal human interaction with that many people?

        You don’t, unless you spend a /lot/ of money. The TSA isn’t the solution, but Israel’s system isn’t either.

        • euph_22 says:

          Did i say “just copy Israels system”? We are a different country facing different threats using different means. Of course we’d implement a different sudden than they use. Our doesn’t mean we can’t implement some things based on what they use to help address our threats.
          Case in point, a 10-20 minute interview with the average passenger is not a cost effective security approach for the US. A 20-30 second conversation, with lengthier interviews for anybody raising red flags. That might be a good approach to try, don’t you think?

          • Lt. Coke says:

            Many people suggest that very thing. They bring up Israel like it’s the ultimate solution to terrorism or something.

            I’d need to see some studies about whether the terrorist-ness of an individual can even be gauged in that amount of time before I could approve spending the millions it would take to train people to that level. My guess is, that kind of system would just end up proving that racism and xenophobia are still alive and well.

            • bluline says:

              We certainly couldn’t train current TSA members to Israel’s level. We’d have to hire much brighter, more highly educated individuals. And those cost a lot more money than the brain-dead drones we have now.

            • euph_22 says:

              I guess you’re right.
              People in the process of committing a crime would never become apparently evasive or stressed while being confronted by a security official. It’s not like millions of police around the world routinely use these techniques to identify potential criminals day in and day out.

              I’m not bringing up Israel because I think it’s the ultimate solution to terrorism (although I we spent their money per capita, we’d be pretty secure). I’m bringing it up because their philosophy is much less ass backwards than ours.

          • bluline says:

            And what of those who don’t wish to speak with an interviewer and simply want to go about their business? There is a long tradition in this country that no one can be forced to speak to an officer of the law and that failure to do so does not provide grounds for an even greater level of intrusion.

            • euph_22 says:

              Try that now. Try going through the airport, and politely declining to cooperate with security. How did that go for you?

              Hell, try that with the cop that pulls you over. You would be in handcuffs on the side of the road in seconds.

              We don’t have that tradition. Certainly not if you actually participate in things like driving on the public roads or using airports. We give up some of our liberties when we do things like that. Which is why the police can ask for your drivers license, ask you to take a breathalyzer. Why the TSA can force you through a scanner and pat you down (both of which are far more invasive than a security officer asking “where are you headed? Any luggage? Where’s home?”).

              And you ABSOLUTELY can be force to speak with an officer of the law. You can’t be forced to say anything beyond a few cursory details (identifying yourself for one. A few others depending on the exact circumstances). But they can use your lack of cooperation in decided to pursue further investigation (but not to obtain warrants or in court).

              • bluline says:

                I NEVER speak to the TSA people, even when they speak to me. It’s not required, and I won’t do it. So if they want to interview me and ask invasive questions, my response will be that it’s none of their business where I’m going, where I’ve been, or what I did while I was there. These people are strangers, and I don’t owe them an answer any more than I do some random person on the street.

                If a cop pulls you over and asks for your license, you are not required to engage in a conversation with him. If he asks where you are going, you can state that you’d rather not discuss that. If he asks if you’ve been drinking, you can give the same response. And refusing to answer is not grounds to detain you or to search you or your vehicle.

                If a cop appears at your door, you are not required to speak to him, or to even answer the door. You can ignore him completely (unless he has a warrant).

                Many a person is sitting in prison today because they didn’t know enough to keep their mouth shut when confronted by a cop or other LEO.

                • guaporico says:

                  You must be fun at parties.

                  Legally a cop or TSA agent can’t arrest you for not talking to them, but when you’re a dick (or acting suspicious), they can certainly “figure out a way” to make your evening or weekend miserable. You spend the night in handcuffs, and the next day they say sorry, mistake and let you go.

                • euph_22 says:

                  It is exactly their business who you are, where you are going, where you came from and where your home is. That is all information on the boarding pass and ID you give them to get through security.

                  And you ARE required to engage in conversation with a police officer that pulls you over, if it is part of a field sobriety test.

                  • bluline says:

                    Wrong, wrong, wrong. My boarding pass and ID say nothing about where I’ve been where I’m going, or what I did or might do when I reach my destination. And if they ask, I don’t have to answer. Show me a law that says I do, and I’ll retract my statement.

                    And you never have to speak to a police officer during a traffic stop, even at a sobriety checkpoint. Simply state that you’d rather not discuss your personal business with them, then ask if you are being detained or if you are free to go.

                    In a rather famous instance, Tiger Woods refused to speak to the police when they tried to question him about the incident with his wife. That was his right. See the eighth paragraph at the following:

      • Citizen, not Consumer says:

        It speaks volumes that “catching drugs” is now considered a legitimate function of the TSA. Because it is a warrantless, suspicionless administrative search, the TSA is specifically prohibited from actively looking for drugs (or any other contraband aside from weapons, explosives, and incendiaries).

        Yet the TSA now very publicly proclaims that “finding drugs” is one of the key benefits they provide to the American people. And we’re buying it.

        The TSA is not only really bad security theater. It’s a textbook example from the “boiling frog” school of civil rights erosion.

      • daemonaquila says:

        Per your admission, TSA is catching common criminals (smugglers and people carrying a small amount of drugs for personal use, etc.), not potential terrorists. That’s security theater. These criminals are the business of the local cops, but are not threats to airline security. They’re essentially using TSA to do searches that would be otherwise illegal, which is not the mission of the agency. In terms of keeping people safe on the airlines, they are no more or less effective than the far less intrusive security before the TSA was created. There is no reason for Americans to put up with the nonsense.

        • euph_22 says:

          I wholeheartedly agree that the TSA as it is is not anymore effective than what we had before. My argument is that for practical reasons we can’t disband the TSA, we have to fix it.

    • who? says:

      Exactly. The boots on the ground TSA staff are doing as well as can be expected, given the circumstances, in the way that Walmart greeters are doing as well as can be expected at their jobs. The problem isn’t with them, it is with the policies and procedures, and the entire TSA strategy. The TSA has cost untold billions, not just in their own expenses, but in increased costs to the flying public. In the post 9/11 world, however, what exactly has made us safer? Two things….reinforced cockpit doors, and the idea that passengers are allowed to fight back. The rest has done nothing to make any of us any safer. In 11 years, the TSA hasn’t caught a single terrorist or hijacker. Other passengers have caught a few terrorists along the way, but the TSA hasn’t caught a single one.

    • Diogynes says:

      You were doing just fine until you used the word “sheeple”… ;-)

    • MeowMaximus says:

      The TSA is completely useless, and should be disbanded. Anyone who worked for the TSA should be barred from ever having any government job at any level.

      • euph_22 says:

        And they should be replaced be WHO exactly? How would the transition work?

        We need airport security workers of some form (if for no other reason than because the public would demand it). There would be no practical way to eliminate the TSA while simultaneously standing up some other agency or agencies to do the same job, with no interruption of service (ignoring “disbanding” the TSA just to hire everybody as local airport employees doing the same job the same way). There is just no way to do it.

        Which isn’t in anyway trying deny the fact that TSA is and for it’s entire history has been an utter failure. I’m just saying that as a practical matter, we’re stuck with them.

        • MeowMaximus says:

          They should not be replaced at all. We already have police in the airports, and US Military in some of them. All you need are a few monkeys to run the scanners.

          • euph_22 says:

            Who would run security operations for a given airport? Who would set the policies they work under, and provide oversight? Who would perform training? Who determines what agency has the primary responsibility at which airport?

            Besides, if we shifted the frontline responsibility to police and the military, we would need alot more of both at airports. The staffing cost would be much higher per person, and that would be a significant drain on both agencies.

            • MeowMaximus says:

              I think the folks who run the airports are not stupid – let them set their own policies and hire their own security staff. Let each airport handle it as they see fit, subject to FAA regs. We do not need another useless bureaucracy to over see things

              • RvLeshrac says:

                What?! But then who would stop people from carrying tiny amounts of water onto the plane?!

                Who would open your luggage and steal everything, without consequence?!


                Won’t someone think of the children??

  2. demeteloaf says:

    My guess is that to a frequent flyer, whether they do a good job or not depends on the hassle with which they get through security.

    And considering that the tsa is implementing their “Skip the line for frequent flyers” program (TSA-pre, i think it’s called). I bet that frequent flyers will quickly start to be more okay with them.

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      …not for the amount of personal information you have to fork over for that “privilege.” You think Facebook’s bad…

    • rknicker says:

      we cant plan on getting through that line due to it only passing eligible people about 2/3 of the time, so it saves no travel time, and no packing time, just some of the time spent in line. See post below, the difference in opinion is that we see how poorly they perform on a consistent basis.

    • George4478 says:

      >>And considering that the tsa is implementing their “Skip the line for frequent flyers” program

      This is the program that will randomly selected you for normal screening. So, you cannot time your travel based on the quicker route, you must assume you will still take the longer screening path. So, maybe it will save you some time but maybe not.

      In Denver last month, the difference between the express line and normal line was over an hour. Some express folks we were with thought we’d gotten in trouble or something, since it took us so much time to clear TSA.

      • who? says:

        Denver last month? It took so long for you to go through the line because my wife was in line ahead of you. The TSA had to open her sealed bottle of pepto bismol and check it for explosives. That took about 15 minutes.

      • bluline says:

        Imagine the number of people packed into a single area to such a degree that it takes an hour to pass through the checkpoint. Does anyone know how to say “target”?

  3. Stickdude says:

    They pretend to protect us, and we (or 19% of us, anyway) pretend to feel safe.

  4. Velvet Jones says:

    Who ever posted it last time, please re-post ‘The Simpsons’ bit about the rock that protects from Tigers. I also have magic underwear that protects me from alien abduction, and it does a 100% job. In all of the years I’ve been wearing it I’ve never been abducted by aliens.

  5. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    The terrorists have achieved their goal. After 9/11, we’ve spent countless dollars on scanners, sniffers, TSA agents, etc. and for what? How many actual terrorists have they stopped? Yes, they find guns and other objects from time to time, but how many stories have we seen where the items get through and onto the airliner?

    I firmly believe if Al Queda or “terrorists” or whomever wanted to bring down an airliner, a first line TSA agent hired from an ad on a pizza box isn’t going to stop them.

    • bluline says:

      Why even bother with the airplane itself when the choke point to go through the security screening offers such a juicy and vulnerable target?

  6. rknicker says:

    Regardless of travel frequency lets think about this… they’ve never found anything, they fail to find test ‘bombs’ 90% of the time, the people working there are rude, poorly trained, and many just completely disinterested in being at work

    It’s not a matter of hassle (I fly multiple times per week). It’s that we are there enough to see just how little they do, and how ineffective they are ALL THE TIME. I’ve seen them sleep, space out, on phones, goofing off, they ignore requests, ignore obvious signals of errors, all while missing a truckload of prohibited (though in no way dangerous to anyone) items in luggage that was in or near my bags. Make no mistake, they catch some of the stuff but it’s NOT the majority of it. And despite what you are told, the rules are implemented differently throughout the country.

    Finally, the real hassle is that NOTHING is consistent, whether its pre-check availability, shoes, belts, computers, water bottles, lotions (3oz limit was gone for a couple weeks from some locations before they started testing all liquids at some gates, at some terminals at some airports last week).

  7. NeverLetMeDown2 says:

    Terrible headline. There’s no indication whatsoever that the “average traveler” is okay with the TSA. The surveys that show support for the TSA have huge numbers of respondents who never or almost never travel. A sane survey (and the new one cited in this story is pretty good) should weight responses by frequency of travel.

  8. Mellowtunes says:

    I travel 6-10 times a year, often the same route. The thing that irritates me the most is the inconsistency from airport to airport, crew to crew. I am fine playing by the rules, but they always seem to be changing. Do I have to take off my jacket today? Do I have to hold my wallet in my hand while being naked-scanned or put through the xray with my laptop and belt? Even if they rotate procedures to keep “evil doers” on their toes, post a sign with today’s security procedure so I don’t have to back out of the scanner once committed and cause a backup. I promise I will follow instructions!

    • sir_eccles says:

      Their stock answer to the inconsistency believe it or not is not that it is a failure in their training but rather that it is intentional. It keeps the terrorists on their toes not knowing from one airport to the next what procedure they will be subject to. Umm sure.

      • daemonaquila says:

        Such a load of poo. Minor inconsistencies from airport to airport or trip to trip aren’t what’s causing the complaints. It’s the behavior of TSA agents who don’t know the actual rules so they make them up as they go along, and who treat travelers like dirt. On one occasion, I saw a little girl bring a pair of scissors through on her, and when her mom caught that and tried to get them from her before she passed through the scan, the TSA agent waved her off and said “We don’t take scissors from little girls!” On another flight, a TSA agent almost violently grabbed a toddler who had a very small beanbag stuffed animal still in his hand and screamed in his face to put it down. That’s not switching things up, it’s being unprofessional. Power trips, poor competence, and lack of people skills have no place in security or policing.

  9. HogwartsProfessor says:

    So far my experiences have been very consistent. I don’t know why; maybe it’s because I’m super nice to them. I don’t really care; I just want to get through the line.

    In L.A. I got to go through my first scanner. I forgot LAX had them–they’ve remodeled and when I got to the top of the stairs, it was right there. I didn’t feel like messing with the patdown, so I just did it. I got in and said “Ooh, my first Nude-O-Scope!” and the guy laughed. Then when it zapped me, I put on this big shit-eating grin LOL.

  10. Happy Dad says:

    The problem appears to be that they’re hiring Bevis and Butthead wannabes

  11. trencherman says:

    I feel sorry for TSA agents. They are (typically) under-educated and over their head for the job they have to do. They are just trying to stay out of the unemployment line and get a pay check.

    • bluline says:

      I don’t feel sorry for them. In fact, they should be embarrassed and ashamed to be treating their fellow Americans the way they do.

      • RvLeshrac says:

        This. They knowingly took a job where they’d be required, on a daily basis, to violate most of the principles of our society.

  12. samjung23 says:

    To be honest, business travelers tend to be more annoying with everything than the average person. You could blame their economic background, or the fact that repeating the same thing daily leads one to notice things others wouldn’t, who knows. I’ve never had a problem with the TSA as a relatively infrequent flier. Most are surprisingly laid back, despite the fact that someone like me should be noticed, even though I’m not Muslim, but look like one. I don’t know.

    • daemonaquila says:

      You probably aren’t flying through certain airports as an infrequent flyer. In some airports, TSA is no different than pre-9/11 security, and you can deal with the agents (and they deal with travelers) like everyone is a fellow human being. However, some airports, and I’ll single out Newark as one of the worst, where fortunately a bunch got busted and 8 got fired recently, are filled with both incompetent and downright bitchy TSA who do whatever they want. When flying through certain airports over and over, you get really sick of agents that aren’t qualified to look at the x-ray machine, so they call their supervisor over for EVERY piece of luggage, and the line grows to ridiculous length; agents who literally screech at travelers (works SO well when the person being screeched at doesn’t speak English) while fellow agents look on wondering “what is wrong with this freak?” but do nothing; agents who go ballistic when faced with physical problems (yeah, let’s scream at the guy with the torn rotator cuff when he can’t get his arms into the right position overhead in the scanner); etc., etc., etc.

  13. Fisher1949 says:

    Frequent fliers see TSA often enough to recognize that these invasive searches are done to create the appearance of stringent security without providing any real benefit. TSA is betting that if these procedures are onerous and unpleasant people will think that they somehow improve security when the opposite is true. These only alienate passengers and distract from legitimate security efforts.

    There were no airline attacks between 2002 and 2010 and TSA didn’t grope little kids, strip search old ladies, remove diapers from incontinent passengers or irradiate and take nude photos of people in that period. After eleven years TSA hasn’t caught one terrorist or even identified one legitimate attempt.

    There have been no attacks on bridges, buildings, public events or shopping malls and TSA isn’t near any of those so their value at airports is questionable at best.

    Eight TSA screeners have been arrested in less than two years for smuggling contraband through security, which could just easily have been explosives. TSA can’t prevent crime within their ranks, but we’re supposed to trust them with airport security.

    What are the options when there is no complaint venue or means of recourse for abuses of power by screeners except through TSA? There are laws to protect citizens from abuses by police for a reason and the same standards should be applied to TSA.

  14. samjung23 says:

    As I’m older, I realize education has nothing to do with intelligence and class. Even well-educated people still can be very stupid. I would prefer to use the term, “willfully ignorant.” You can have an MD, law degree or Ph.D, but if you don’t know what’s going on in the world and have little in the way of people skills, you’re still a freaking moron, in my opinion. And yes, there are people like that out there.

    • JustJayce says:

      An excellent way to describe many of the people in our government bureaucracy who created this mess of an agency

  15. Preppy6917 says:

    As a frequent traveler and airline employee, it isn’t the TSA I have a problem with: it’s the casual travelers. The ones who don’t bother to learn the simple 3-1-1 protocol. The ones who say they have no metal on or nothing in their pockets. The ones who send laptops through inside of bags despite TSA agents repeating OVER AND OVER to removed them. The ones who exclaim “Do I LOOK like a terrorist?!”. Those the people that I have a problem with.

    Coincidentally, I somewhat favor Timothy McVeigh, so I like to remind those racist scumbags that I DO look like a terrorist….

    • Preppy6917 says:

      Sooo many typos. *facepalm*

      I’ll pour another glass of wine.

      • PinchJoe says:

        The only thing that keeps us safer is the locked cockpit door and the knowledge that a group of passengers on a plane can overtake any hostile person bent on evil deeds. TSA is a useless make-work agency that only casual travelers think is useful.
        “say your name”, liquids out, belts/shoes off, laptops Inconsistencies in airport policies do not make us safer either.

  16. Phloyd says:

    I suppose if you travel often enough, you’re eventually going to to hit on a bad experience with the TSA, which will leave a bad taste, regardless of how smoothly all your other experiences have gone.

  17. sqeelar says:

    I like the Israeli model, but first off, where are you going to find enough people who speak fluent Hebrew, much less three or four other languages?

  18. Caddyshack says:

    “Maybe The Average Traveler Is Okay With The TSA, But Frequent Fliers? Not So Much”

    This is idiot logic. When you know a process well, you’ll know how to plan, expect, and what to do. So a frequent flier would be more inclined to travel without issues. If you’re a frequent flier and still having issues as though you’re on your first flight, then you’re not too bright.

    The average flier is more inclined to not understand the process.

    • RvLeshrac says:

      The frequent flyer is more likely to know the process. Hence, they’re more likely to be pissed off each and every time the TSA fails to follow their own rules and processes.

      Business travellers *DO* plan ahead. The problem is that the TSA might ignore something in your luggage one time, then treat the exact same item as a security threat the next time.

  19. Sad Sam says:

    Here is my problem with the TSA – it is a huge waste of money, it is likely exposing people to untested radiation machines that were huge give away to Chertoff’s company, it is not protecting us from anything.

    I have a major problem with the scanners and I have a major problem every single time I opt out and I opt out every single time I’m faced with a scanner. They try to talk me into the scanners, they try to get me to put my carry on stuff through before they have rounded up a female agent (which the one time I followed their directions my stuff was left unattended for several minutes), it takes too long to round up a female agent, then the female agent doesn’t want to pick up my carry on stuff and I’m not allowed to touch it. Frankly, there are four arguments I go through every time I opt out and its ridiculous that these folks are not properly trained. The actual pat down can range from reasonable to downright grabby and the whole thing is an absolute farce.