WHILE standing in the security line at Kona Airport, the seemingly endless exercise in flying safety went on for at least an hour when I heard a male passenger behind me utter to no one in particular: Remember when flying used to be fun?
It was a throw away line let fly amid the pushing and shoving and short-tempered passengers, their crying babies and the bumper-car strollers. All under the chaotic auspices of the Transportation Security Administration.His utterance intended to cut the tension was so very apropos.At the risk of sounding a bit whiney, have you noticed the 43,000 TSA airport screeners have become less helpful after they were made federal employees? Now, they may be on their way to being allowed to unionize, according to a new bill passed in Congress this week.
My experience makes me re-think my support of the federalization of security screeners at airports. I remember my libertarian friends warning that once they become federal employees, service will decline. I refused to take the bait. But if anecdotal evidence gathered on a recent vacation is any indication, my libertarian friends were right.
These are the signs at TSA airport security checkpoints: The TSA is not responsible for managing the line. This meant, theyll X-ray your carry-on bag, juggle your liquid cosmetics and pat you down if they have to, but they wont help manage the process. Every family, grandma and teenaged-acne-faced terrorist for themselves.
Oh what I would give for a Disneyland manager that hot, humid day in Konas all-outdoor airport. Those Magic Kingdom-trained personnel know how to snake a line and make it seem shorter.You should all move this way, toward the curb, said a young female TSA worker. Her corrective instructions added to the chaos, as people begun to cut in line. She walked away, mumbling this is not her job.
The other sign at the checked bags station reads: TSA is not responsible for lifting your bags. In other words, theyll watch for explosives or that ever-dangerous Swiss Army Knife or bobby pin, but they wont hoist anything anywhere, no how. Im still trying to get these TSA people to create one-stop service (how about one line for screening?)
It was the for-profit airlines people who were most helpful. Even United Airlines, which is in and out of bankruptcy protection, produced friendly workers who showed us what line to stand in and where to take our bags for X-raying and bomb detection.
At LAX, the best deal in the house are the independent curbside baggage checkers. For $2 a bag, they ticketed, checked, hoisted, loaded and even cleared my bags and those of my family through the dreaded TSA line in one full swoop. The competent young man asked me for my ID and came back with my boarding tickets, too. Credit the entrepreneurial spirit for this fine service. The only sign on their station is thus: Gratuities not included in price.
If only the government employees had to work for tips …On a park-n-ride bus at LAX, a woman on board asked if it stopped at the international terminal. When myself and another passenger told her she was on the wrong bus, this one only goes to the 96th Street parking lot, she asked the driver to let her off.He refused.It was against the rules.
So, we sat in traffic, often at a complete standstill, missing obvious opportunities to open the side door and let her out so she could catch her flight.Cant do it maam. Unless you want to pay the $500 fine, he deadpanned.
Seems like security had her so secure, she couldnt get to her flight. It was a military flight to a relative stationed in Korea. Not even her sobbing would change the drivers mind. Nor the rational pleading from passengers.As the shuttle entered the ancillary parking lot, a young African American woman agreed to drive her back to the airport.
Still, Americans came together to help someone in need, even if it was to make a joke while caught in a long security line or help a passenger wrapped so tight in the security cocoon she was crying desperately to get out.
Now Congress wants to extend this security to boats at port. We better get in line now.
Of course, I’m nost saying all TSA folks are awful. The lady wearing the Hawaiian shirt at the Kona Airport was friendly. I’m just saying that they should help travelers get through lines quicker and do a better job managing the crowds.
I had an experience on the same trip with the TSA security folks at LAX. We were walking through the bowels of the United Airlines terminal when someone apparently ran through the x-ray checkpoint without stopping. We heard a whoop and a yell and then, the men in gray slacks with walkie-talkies shouted: “Everyone stop.”
We literally were all frozen in time for 10 minutes.
Two business travelers walking in the opposite direction as me and my family, argued they needed to get through to catch a flight. That was a tense moment but the TSA security guys handled it well.
One man came over to us, as we became the front of the queue, and joked with my 15-year-old son: “I was told to stand here to watch you.” He smiled and his bantering eased the tension, until his colleague radioed the all clear.