Should the TSA adopt a “one line” policy?


Gordon Moore is confused — and angry.

Just before he boarded a recent flight in Portland, Ore., he was met with a crowd of passengers queued up at the TSA screening area.

“I saw a separate security line for first and business class travelers, staffed by at least two TSA employees,” he says. “They seemed to be doing nothing.”

He adds, “The airlines can do whatever they want, but all of us pay for the TSA through our taxes. By what right do they provide priority service for affluent travelers?”

The TSA is strangely quiet on the issue of preferred screening, but several commentators have also raised this issue in the past.

Even if airlines subsidize these VIP lines, why should a federal agency participate in such a program? Isn’t the two-class system the airlines have instituted enough caste nonsense for a day?

I agree with Moore. Whether he saw a first class line or one of those newfangled Pre-Check lines, where “prescreened” passengers get to experience a more civil version of the TSA — minus the “take-off-your-shoes,” “remove-your-laptop,” and “walk-through-the-poorly-tested-scanner” part — it’s still painfully obvious that the TSA’s lines are a total mess.

Maybe it’s time to go back to something simpler. Like one line.

Oh, I know the elites and the airline employees will howl if the TSA does it, but my “one passenger, one line” idea makes some sense. If the goal is to get the lines moving faster for everyone (that is presumably what the TSA wants) then it’s certainly worth considering.

One line would eliminate the Pre-Check boondoggle. The TSA should be running its background checks on all passengers before the flight and singling out the dangerous ones for an extra once-over — not the other way around. And with the influx of cash the TSA is now collecting, we shouldn’t have to pay an extra $85 for the agency to do its job.

Also, a one-line policy would eradicate a “special” class of passengers that don’t really deserve special treatment. Elites, employees and flight crew members should stand in the same line and be subject to the same screening requirements as everyone else. Nothing would lead to common-sense reform faster than an unhappy pilot’s union complaining that its members have to pass through the silly and unproven full-body scanner.

It might also curb the entitled attitude of flight crews, who seem to think they deserve to get through those security lines faster. On my last flight, as I was loading my bags on to the conveyor belt for scanning, a flight attendant stepped in front of my seven-year-old daughter and dropped a rollerboard on the belt in front of me without saying a word. Then she marched through the magnetometer.

An “excuse me” certainly would have gone a long way, if for no other reason than to show my daughter that manners matter.

And sure, if I’d raised any objections, the attendant would have told me she deserved to cut the line because she was on her way to work. But I happened to be on my way to work, too, and I had to stand in a 20-minute line. Who really cares what the purpose of your trip is?

Having passengers like Moore and irate flight attendants and elite members all piling on the TSA to get things moving faster is the right kind of pressure on the agency. Its solution, until now, has been to split us into factions and to try to make the loudest and most influential groups happy while hanging the rest of us out to dry. Elites get Pre-Check; people in wheelchairs get to cut the line; pilots on duty are exempt from a lot of the screening hassle.

Classic divide and conquer.

I’m willing to bet the first class passengers flying the same day as Moore did not complain that they had a line and two private TSA agents to themselves — and that’s exactly my point.

The TSA’s security circus won’t end until we are all standing in the same long line. Perhaps it’s time to eliminate the special privileges that are only making the TSA a slower, more inefficient agency.

Should the TSA adopt a "one line" policy?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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