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.
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.
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.
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.
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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What we’re reading
Watch out for the ‘Change My Address’ scams (NBC 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)
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.