TSA

Hey airlines, thanks for nothing!

Aaron Kohr/Shutterstock
Aaron Kohr/Shutterstock
What annoys you the most about air travel?

Is it the chaos that awaits when you pull up to the curb at the airport terminal this time of year? How about the indignity of being screened by the TSA? Or maybe just knowing that you’re paying more but getting so much less?

Now take a deep breath and say it with me: “Thank you.”

As we approach Thanksgiving, I, for one, am feeling grateful.

So is Mary Jo Baas, a consultant from Milwaukee. She sees the upside in the deep cuts in services and amenities, particularly in economy class.
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TSA’s new Pre-Check programs raises major privacy concerns

Mopic/Shutterstock
Mopic/Shutterstock
When the Transportation Security Administration’s Pre-Check formally launches sometime this fall, its trusted-traveler program will already have the enthusiastic endorsement of frequent travelers — and an equally enthusiastic denouncement from privacy advocates.

Pre-Check offers an appealing shortcut past the often long airport security lines. After you pay an enrollment fee and submit to a background check and interview, the TSA promises to treat you like a VIP. You’ll be sent to a preferred line, where you can leave your shoes, light outerwear and belt on, leave your laptop in its case and keep your bag of liquids and gels in your carry-on.

“I can’t say enough about how much I love it,” says Ralph Velasco, a photographer based in Corona del Mar, Calif. “It’s saved me many, many hours. I’d highly recommend it.”

How do Velasco and others know about the benefits of Pre-Check?

Because the agency assigned to protect U.S. transportation systems has slowly rolled out the program in 40 airports since 2011.

Travelers could opt in to Pre-Check through their frequent-flier program or through another government trusted-traveler initiative, such as Global Entry, a similar program that allows travelers to cut the customs line when they return to the United States from overseas.
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Our patience with the TSA is almost up

Ints Vikmanis / Shutterstock.com
Ints Vikmanis / Shutterstock.com
Let’s give the Transportation Security Administration one last chance.

After the release of a Government Accountability Office report that revealed widespread TSA employee misconduct, including screeners involved in theft and drug smuggling, public sentiment is squarely on the side of a top-to-bottom overhaul that could privatize or dismantle the agency assigned to protect America’s transportation systems.

But today, just a few days after the 9/11 anniversary, is not the time to talk about the end of the TSA. This is the moment to take account of the failings of one of America’s least-loved agencies, and to say: Our patience has its limits; it’s almost up.
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Is the TSA using scripts to push us through its full body scanners?

Elnavigante/Shutterstock
Elnavigante/Shutterstock
Roberta Ling is a 73-year-old woman from Austin, Texas. Statistically, she’s likelier to be the next Miss America than a terrorist. But that doesn’t stop the TSA from harassing her whenever she flies.

Ling expects it. She has an artificial breast prosthesis, and is forced to make a difficult choice between a full-body scan and an uncomfortable pat-down when she’s screened. (Disclosure: I am opposed to the TSA’s current screening methods, and believe the choice between a scan and pat-down violates our Fourth Amendment rights.)

What Ling doesn’t expect is the hard sell on the scanner, which has sounded strangely similar lately.
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Good customer service from the TSA? It’s no joke

Tifon Images/Shutterstock
Tifon Images/Shutterstock

Like most Americans, Jim Davies believes the Transportation Security Administration might benefit from a top-to-bottom reform.

And like most Americans, he wasn’t surprised when a Government Accountability Office study revealed widespread employee misconduct, including screeners involved in theft and drug smuggling activities, as well as circumventing mandatory screening procedures for passengers and baggage.

All of which made his recent experience in Philadelphia so noteworthy. As he waited in line to have his ID checked, he saw three elderly men approach the checkpoint.

“One of the gentlemen had clearly not been on a commercial flight in some time,” he says. “He presented his Medicare card and then his library card as his ID.”
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Should we continue to publish the Scan?

The Scan is a synopsis of news you can’t miss. Get it delivered to your “in” box by signing up now. It’s free.

What we’re reading

Watch out for the ‘Change My Address’ scams (NBC News)

Luxury cruise fails surprise health inspection (CNN)

Video of woman falling asleep on fellow airline passenger goes viral (Fox News)

Fashion do’s and don’ts from the TSA (Gadling)

What we’re writing

Working on vacation — technology makes it possible — do you or don’t you? (Consumer Traveler)

Can I get a refund for my stay at the No-Tell Motel? (Elliott)

Thank you for your feedback on this daily news summary. We’ve decided to suspend publication of the Scan. You can find a version of it every day on Consumer Traveler.


At least 78 killed, 131 injured, in Spain train disaster

The Scan is a synopsis of news you can’t miss. Get it delivered to your “in” box by signing up now. It’s free.

What we’re reading

At least 78 killed, 131 injured, in Spain train disaster (Reuters)

Spirit Airlines pokes fun at Weiner, Carlos Danger (USA Today)

TSA flat out denies their agents search your parked cars (Jaunted)

Oahu bans smoking at the beach (CNN)

Bee swarm grounds US Airways plane (Charlotte Observer)

What we’re writing

More airline deception — seating charts that don’t tell the truth (Consumer Traveler)

John Pistole gets his knickers in a twist — again (TSA News)

Nissan dealership won’t honor its warranty on my used car (Elliott)

Share your stories with News Editor Steve Surjaputra.


Auto insurers don’t play fair with customers

The Scan is a synopsis of news you can’t miss. Get it delivered to your “in” box by signing up now. It’s free.

What we’re reading

Auto insurers don’t play fair with customers, study finds (NBC News)

Landing gear on Southwest jet collapses at LaGuardia Airport, eight injured (Reuters)

More leisure fliers pay for seats, food, legroom and Wi-Fi (Wall Street Journal)

TSA chief warns of ‘new underwear bomb’ which threatened airline last year and forced agency to rethink all its security procedures (Daily Mail)

Horton shares credit with Arpey for successful American bankruptcy (The Street)

What we’re writing

A scratch on my rental car — and now, a bill from a collection agency (Elliott)

Tagged as a troublemaker by the TSA (TSA News)

Do airlines need to add more humans at the airport? (Consumer Traveler)

Got a headline suggestion? Join our community of news readers and become part of the action. Email our News Editor Steve Surjaputra for details.


Valet parked cars searched under TSA regulations

The Scan is a synopsis of news you can’t miss. Get it delivered to your “in” box by signing up now. It’s free.

What we’re reading

Valet parked cars searched under TSA regulations (WHEC)

Stores use cameras and cell phone signals to stalk you (International Digital Times)

Throwback lodging: Stay in another era (CNN)

Yes, your online travel agency sees E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G (Elliott)

Not again! Boeing 787 Dreamliner makes unscheduled landing at Boston airport (Los Angeles Times)
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How to tell the TSA how to do its job – and how to get it to listen

If you’re afraid a TSA agent might bungle your screening when you fly somewhere this summer, maybe you should do what John Klapproth did when he was traveling from Seattle to Anchorage recently.

Like many air travelers, Klapproth declined to use the TSA’s full-body scanner, and was sent to a holding area for an “enhanced” pat-down.

“I told the TSA agent that was no problem,” he says. “I explained to him that I was a retired state corrections officer with 25 years experience doing pat-searches in a maximum security prison and knew what to expect. I also told him that I knew a proper pat-search could be performed without touching my genitals or anal areas and that I did not consent to be touched on either area.”
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Is anyone really listening to your TSA complaints?

Champion Studio/Shutterstock
Champion Studio/Shutterstock
With only a few weeks left to leave your comments about the TSA’s controversial passenger screening methods, here’s a question worth asking: Is anyone listening?

If you said, “not really,” then maybe you know Theresa Putkey, a consultant from Vancouver. She had a run-in with a TSA agent recently after trying to opt out of a full-body scan, and sent a complaint letter to the agency assigned to protect America’s transportation systems.

Here’s the form response from the TSA:
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It’s time to tell the TSA what you really think of it — and for it to listen

Oleg/Shutterstock
Oleg/Shutterstock
Travelers love to complain about the TSA, and even though the agency assigned to protect America’s transportation systems claims to listen, most of us know better.

Don’t believe me? Try sending the agency an email, complaining about your last pat-down. Do you hear the sound of crickets? Me too.

But now a court has ordered the TSA to listen, and to pay attention — and maybe, if we’re lucky, to do something about it.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has ordered the TSA to engage in something known as notice-and-comment rulemaking on its screening procedures, and specifically its use of full-body scanners. You can leave your comment at the Federal Register website until June 24th.
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Summer road hazards your government won’t warn you about

Studioarz/Shutterstock
Studioarz/Shutterstock
With the frenetic summer travel season just around the corner, here’s a little warning about a road hazard you might not expect: a checkpoint staffed by Transportation Security Administration workers.

The so-called VIPR teams (shorthand for Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response) are special TSA units that search — and sometimes detain — travelers at bus terminals, railroad stations, subways, truck weigh stations and special events such as NFL games and political conventions.
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Who’s afraid of the TSA?

Eldan Carin/Shutterstock
Eldan Carin/Shutterstock
Today’s tale of TSA inefficiency comes from the Atlantic Avenue subway station in Brooklyn, NY.

“This station has at least six entrances,” says Jeff, one of my readers who witnessed the spectacle. “But the TSA was only set up at one of the two that I saw. If someone was up to no good they would just walk past the turnstile entrance where the TSA was and go to one of the other entrances. It is such a waste of time and money that they are allowed to do this.”

I asked Jeff if I could mention his observations in an upcoming story. But that’s when he clammed up.

“Do you have to use my name if you write about it?” he asked.

Yes, I told him. I normally use full names.
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Is my 15-year-old son a terrorist?

Yganko/Shutterstock
Yganko/Shutterstock
It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. You arrive at the airport to fly home from your family vacation, and something goes wrong — terribly wrong — at the TSA screening area.

It happened to Susan Bruce recently when she flew from Phoenix to Dallas with her husband, teenage son and daughter.

“When we got to security, my son went first in line through the X-ray machine and TSA flagged him for the hand swab test,” she remembers. “While the rest of the family was stuck on the other side of the X-ray machine, my son was pulled aside for supposedly having a positive result for explosives.”

Bruce, who lives in Dallas and is a mathematician by training and a homemaker, is certain it was a misunderstanding. Her son is no terrorist, she says. He’s a clean-cut honor student.
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