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Your TSA tax dollars at (non) work

The TSA PreCheck program was supposed to make airport security inspections faster for many people. By paying $85 for five years and going through a background screening process (fingerprints, interview, and so on), passengers could earn the right to speed through a speedier TSA checkpoint lane, without having to remove coats, shoes, liquids, and laptops from bags.
One problem: Not enough people are doing it, but foolishly, the TSA had already reduced staffing—to please Congress-mandated budget cuts—in anticipation of more signups.
Nationwide, TSA staffing was decreased by 10 percent in the expectation that more passengers would sign up for the TSA PreCheck program. But although some 25 million were expected, only a little over 9 million actually entered the program. Too late—TSA staff had already been downsized.
Compounding that, some airports have seen a rise in usage. Detroit, for example, saw its ridership increase by 8 percent even as TSA agents decreased. Now, the airport is warning customers to show up 90 minutes before domestic flights and two hours before international ones.

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Posted by
2254 posts

As citizens, we get back what we put in to a large extent. If on the one hand people walk around screaming "taxes are too high" and "no new taxes" and on the other hand they want to grumble about long lines at the airport, well, you can't (won't) have it both ways. Services cost money, and cutting "waste fraud and abuse", while a very popular political slogan, only goes so far.

It'll get worse before it gets better, I imagine:

From the TSA chief:

"We're hiring at an accelerated pace. I'm running eight concurrent training classes at our TSA Academy. And that's putting about 200 new officers out each week. Those individuals are being sent to the highest-volume airports."

Posted by
3026 posts

As Frommers notes, it's a good idea that's poorly executed. After filling out a very invasive and endless online questionnaire, you then have to schedule an appointment at your friendly local international airport. The openings at LAX were so lousy I made an appointment in San Diego, just figured I would take a day off from work and do it. Then something opening up locally.

It's a lot of work for a worthwhile pass (note that Global Entry is actually $100 and includes Precheck).

Posted by
8851 posts

You're lucky you have a local office. We have to drive three hours for an appointment for Global Entry. Then at our usual departing airport, they're short staffed and close the Pre-Check line, anyway. But, I admit a long line here is nothing compared to LAX.

Posted by
103 posts

You just never know. I live in Detroit and believed all of the scary local news stories about the security lines at DTW, so I got to the North Terminal very early for an 11:00 a.m. domestic flight on Wednesday of last week. There were exactly 8 people ahead of me at security, and I ended up cooling my heels at my gate for 2.5 hours before my SWA flight started lining us up for boarding. Flying home from JAX early on Sunday evening, the line was longish but not too long for their cattle corral set-up, and they were fully staffed and got us through quickly and efficiently. So, in my case, there was nothing to worry about. But I know better than to plan on things being like that next time.

Posted by
544 posts

I am huge fan of TSA PreCheck and Global Entry. I signed up for NEXUS a couple of years back, it's a joint program with Canada and includes Global Entry and PreCheck, but requires an in-person interview with both US and Canadian officials.

The only downside is flying to Europe. I usually fly BA or IcelandAir and neither of those airlines participate in TSA PreCheck.

Even with that drawback, I highly recommend everyone sign up for a trusted traveler program, even if you aren't a frequent traveler:

Posted by
13536 posts

I do not see anything on that website that links the UK Registered Traveler program to the US Global Entry. It looks like it costs £70 to apply and £50 a year to participate---no information about a waiver of fees for Global Entry. That seems pretty steep to avoid the immigration line.

We are also Global Entry members but did not receive an email like that---although we travel to London about every 8 months.

Posted by
2864 posts

I love it when people complain about how their tax dollars are spent.
I do not see the Global Entry application as intrusive or time consuming. You do have to fill in information such as passport number and where you have traveled---which they actually already know. I would prefer they do not make this all that easy, as it is a security screen. Would you like to make it easier for everyone to go through security and skip some of the steps?

The interview may be scheduled months out---because they do not have that many interviewers. Would you prefer that CBP hire and train more employees to conduct interviews---and spend yet more tax dollars? Just to make it more convenient for you?

Posted by
2153 posts

Wait... Did the TSA fee go DOWN when they quit providing service?

Let's think about this.

Actual air travel is UP so the TSA collections are UP, but they cut back on the number of employees???

I am complaining because my taxes are still at the point they were but they TSA is not providing the service they were!

And I am sure the "quickly" trained agents will provide excellent theatre.

Last week it took us an hour to clear in Atlanta.

Posted by
823 posts

A few things that chap me about TSA Pre-check... After paying my fee, I'm finding many TSA Pre-check security lanes closed because of staffing shortages. I'm also seeing an ever higher number of non Pre-check passengers being pushed through the pre-check lines, slowing everything down, in order to shorten the queues at the regular (mere-mortal) security queues. Finally, I would really like to see the airlines figure out some way to pass my Pre-check credentials to a partner airline when they sell me a ticket on someone else's bird.

BTW - I doubt very seriously that your elected representatives read this forum (or read at all) so complaining here won't do much good. I suggest you write your representatives directly (and often). There's always the possibility one of their staffers knows how to read and will read your email to them.

Posted by
2153 posts

My elected officials know how I feel about thugs masquerading as security.

Posted by
2254 posts

Well at least nobody's making sweeping generalizations. Last time I checked TSA agents were gainfully employed, unlike your average "thug".

Posted by
2153 posts

Things I have witnessed a TSA agent do

  1. Yell at a Grandmotherly type in a wheelchair "IF YOU WANTED TO YOU COULD GET OUT OF THAT CHAIR AND WALK" Agent continued to yell until woman was in tears.

  2. Take my corkscrew and threaten to arrest me. When I pointed out it was allowed he said "NOT TODAY" I asked for supervisor and he changed mind. I held my ground and complained to his boss

  3. Stand there and just scream at passengers to "MOVE IT" when there was no place to go.

and so on

Sorry, but too many of them are just bullys on a power trip for me to respect them. I met a woman who actually quit due to the fact that every day her supervisor played " I made up a new rule" He admitted he did it just because he could and it upset people! She complained and he basically started attacking her so she walked. (Oh and she admitted that at her airport the booze they confiscated from passengers who didn't realize you couldn't carry duty free on to your next flight when connecting in the US went home with the TSA agents... Gee, it's too dangerous for us to have, but ok for them to take home LOL!)

This is not security it's a show!

Posted by
2254 posts

^^^ You're right, they are thugs.

Thug: a violent person or criminal; a cruel or vicious ruffian, robber, or murderer.

Posted by
2916 posts

I just returned home from France, and have a number of observations about security and TSA. Leaving Boston, we arrived about 3 hours before flight time. Even with a moderately long security line, it only took about 20-25 minutes to get through. And the TSA agents were fine. We thus sat waiting for our flight for over 2 hours.
On the way home, we flew CDG to Iceland to Boston. At CDG, security took no time, and, of course, belts and shoes could stay on. Since when we changed planes in Iceland we didn't have to go through security again, we arrived in the US w/o ever having to remove our shoes and belts. So TSA doesn't consider security safe unless you remove shoes and belts, yet fliers can enter the US w/o having done so. Does that make sense?
In Boston, Global Entry people were told which way to go for their special kiosks, but all of us ordinary people went to a separate area with a large number of kiosks, and it all went very smoothly and quickly. The Passport Control agent was very pleasant and there was no secondary Customs screening, even with my pungent raw milk cheese smelling its way through the bag.

Posted by
1047 posts

Although the PreCheck line might be longer, it usually moves much faster than the "regular" security line, as you don't have people removing their laptops/liquids from their bags, taking off their shoes and coats, and generally slowing down the security-theater process like these folks.