Industry Focus

Carry On Convenience

I read a story about a month ago from a TSA worker, who complained that they are overworked, underappreciated and under paid. According to Vaughn Glenn, a TSA agent and union representative in Detroit, only about half of Americans surveyed in a 2014 poll thought TSA screening makes air travel safer. Glenn said that the TSA is not the evil force that people are thinking of, but rather they are following processes and procedures made at a much higher level. He also says that TSA agents face an enormous amount of stress and low pay.

The median salary for a TSA agent is $45,000 per year. Fact is, some TSA staff members earn much less, and that is a shame. However, it is a choice to protect the flying public.

For travelers who haven’t flown in an airplane in the last 20 years, things are different. TSA staff is all about security, at every level. For instance, that wood grain pocket knife your auntie gave you when you were a little boy, it will never, or shouldn’t, make it through security now days.

Some travelers today expect to get through security in a minute or two, but that is not always the case. If a traveler is late for a flight, TSA has nothing to do with it. Leave early to be on time.

Despite the complaints offered by Glenn, TSA is doing some pretty amazing things. For instance, TSA and American Airlines are testing a joint initiative to install new screening technology, including automated security screening lanes and CT scans on carry-on baggage. This technology is already in use at one U.S. airport, and is expected to enhance security effectiveness, and decrease the time travelers spend in security screening by as much as 30 percent.

Deployment lanes are expected in Chicago (O’Hare), Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles and Miami. Phoenix SkyHarbor will have an enhanced security checkpoint by end of the year.

“Our foremost priority is the security of the traveling public,” said Peter V. Neffenger, TSA administrator.

Of course that is what Neffenger is going to say. His public affairs staff seemingly had to work overtime to craft that obvious truism. For American Airlines’ part, they are pleased to be working collaboratively with TSA to support next generation screening technology. American Airlines is using their major hubs to test the effectiveness of the security, as well as improving on customer experience.

There are a number of unique features designed to improve the screening of travelers. This will be accomplished by automating many functions that are now conducted manually. With this working at peak speeds, passengers will be able to move more swiftly through a security checkpoint.

One of the innovations is an automated belt that will draw bags into the X-ray machine, returning the bins back to queue after the completion of screening. Wait a minute; doesn’t that already happen at London’s Heathrow or Charles de Gaulle in Paris?

Bags with a potential threat will be directed to a separate area to allow following bins to continue forward uninterrupted. RFID tags will be attached to every bin for additional accountability of items as they transit the system and cameras that capture photos of the outside of the bag, which is linked to the X-ray image of that bag’s contents.

CT technology is a security friendly solution. Airports can screen checked bags more efficiently and significantly improves the throughput of screened items. Now, 3D CT technology could make it possible for passengers to leave liquids, gels and aerosols, as well as your laptop computer, in your carry-on bags at all times.

TSA plans to roll out additional automated checkpoint lanes to improve screening as well as help minimize wait times. Their goal is simple, to incorporate automated security checkpoint lanes at all U.S. airports.

This enhanced security may alleviate one of Glenn’s issues at TSA, which is new hires who leave the job before they even get on the floor. I suppose we could be a little more understanding of TSA employees. They are, after all, providing security screening at some of the busiest places in the country.

A thank you and pat on the back never hurts anyone. Before you know it, manual security screening of carry-on baggage will be a thing of the past.

This article originally appeared in the August 2016 issue of Security Today.

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