Thursday, May 19, 2011

Why the TSA sometimes rocks the house.

I have a story to share with you that renewed my faith in the TSA as a security agency.

A friend of mine recently took a weekend trip and had a really unfortunate experience with the TSA at her local airport that was later rectified in a great way. (I won't say which airport because that wouldn't be nice, would it?)

Here's the gist of her experience.

My friend is pregnant. For medical reasons, her doctor told her that it was fine for her to fly, but that she should request a pat down rather than going through the full body scanner. So she did her homework, found out that the pat down process often took more time than the scanner, and planned her time accordingly. The first agent she encountered - you know, the one that checks your ID and boarding pass - told her no problem, just let the agent by the scanner know. Easy peasy, right?

But then she encountered the agent in front of the scanner. Who shall now be referred to as "Bitch Agent." When my friend expressed her desire to have a pat down instead of going through the scanner, Bitch Agent didn't bother to hide her derision at my friend's request, and then proceeded to hold up the security line as she lectured my friend about how "ignorant" she was for not wanting to go through the scanner, and how she was going to have to wait "a long time" if she wanted the pat down.

My friend held her ground with grace and aplomb, and calmly told Bitch Agent that she still wanted the pat down, and would accept a male agent if that was easier. Bitch Agent then stalled as she slowly radioed for a female agent to report for a pat down. That's right - Bitch Agent wasn't even the one responsible for doing the pat down!

Once the other female agent was there, things went much more smoothly. The second female agent was professional and efficient, and let my friend know exactly how the process would go. She let her know specifically where she would need to pat, and my friend said it was as unobtrusive as it could be.

But Bitch Agent had already affected her. And when I heard the story, I was so mad! How dare someone who works for the TSA act that way towards a PREGNANT woman simply trying to follow doctor's orders? It's not like she was trying to get around a scan, it's not like she was trying to be a hassle, she was simply following the orders her doctor gave her for the safety of her child.

Needless to say, my friend filed a complaint with the TSA when she had landed. And this is where the story gets awesome.

The director of the TSA at my friend's airport called her to follow up!

I am so impressed with this. He called her himself to talk to her about the incident, and let her know that he was going to do his best to follow up and find the offending agent. With over 1,000 agents at the airport, who knows if he'll actually be able to, but how great is it that he called her at all?

He also informed my friend of a very critical thing she did not know - that if you're ever uncomfortable with a screening, you can stop it at any time and ask for a TSA supervisor. You don't even need to give a reason - just state "Please stop my search and summon a supervisor."

I, for one, did not know that. I figured once the search was going, it was going. It's nice to know that if you're ever uncomfortable, you can just say so!

So, this is my thank you note to the TSA - thank you for following up with my friend about the bad experience she had. Thank you for giving her additional information that we can let people know about. And thank you for rocking our airport travel world and showing that 99% of TSA agents are in fact, stand up people.

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