TSA Screening at Airports

I am all for the TSA screening system at airports. In today’s world, you can’t be too careful. Overall, I have found TSA officials to be pleasant, professional, and courteous.

tsa screeners looking at the x-ray

However, I continue to be surprised at the inconsistent application of certain screening procedures. I travel a good deal and am in and out of airports all over the country. You would think that a federal program would insure that rules are applied consistently. Evidently not.Here are the inconsistencies I have found:

  1. Initial screeners. Sometimes this is a TSA official; sometimes it is simply airport security. Sometimes, they jot a mark on your boarding pass; sometimes they carefully compare you with your picture. The most annoying habit is when they ask you for credentials at the beginning of the line and then again at the end. It’s almost as if the second guys don’t trust the first guys.
  2. Secondary screeners. Sometimes a TSA official wants to see your boarding pass again, right after you go through the detection monitor. But not always. As a result, I always put mine in my right pocket—just in case.
  3. Shoes off or on? This is getting more consistent now, but for a long time, I left my shoes on when going through security in Nashville and a few other cities. Now, as a matter of standard operating procedure, I take my shoes off.
  4. Is paste a liquid? When you carry on your bags, you’re supposed to remove any liquids and place the containers in a one-quart plastic bag. According to the official rules, each container must be three ounces or smaller. And, you must use only one, zip-top, clear plastic bag. This seems straightforward and clear. The confusion comes over pastes, some gels, and a few other substances. For example, I have always left my toothpaste and deodorant in my suitcase. However, a few weeks ago, security in Colorado Springs, pulled these out of my bag and lectured me. I’ve flown since then and kept them in my suitcase. So far, no one has pulled them out. It would be great if TSA would clarify this on their site.

What inconsistencies have you found?

Again, compared to what I expected from a federal agency, the TSA is doing a remarkable job. I certainly don’t want to make their already demanding work more difficult. However, I think consistency would help them and the travelers they serve.

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