Imagining Future Conversations with the TSA

Ben blogs about his experience with the TSA at JFK, where every passenger was being asked for their first name and destination.

As he observes, it’s silly when every passenger is being asked the same question and can hear it in advance. Even if the idea was to check for fake IDs (as though this was somehow meaningfully linked to security), the advance notice renders it useless. And of course the TSA document checkers are hardly highly trained behavioral detection officers.

So he pushed back at the questions, asking whether answering was a prerequisite to flying (he was not told that it was), and offering second ID in lieu of an answer.

Now, some will say why give a hard time to the frontline employees? But this is hardly harassment of those employees, and this is the situation in which the passenger is being interrogated in order to exercise their right to travel. But setting aside individual strategy for achieving social change, I’m envisioning a future colloquy between Ben and the TSA that goes something like this:

TSO: Who would cross airside must answer me these questions three, ere the other side he see

Ben: Ask me the questions, Smurf. I am not afraid!

TSO: What.. is your name?

Ben: I am Lucky.

TSO: What.. is your routing?

Ben: TPA-EWR-FRA-ICN-PEK-BKK-NRT-ORD-TPA

TSO: What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen A340?

Ben: Would that be with Rolls Royce or CFM engines?

TSO: Huh? I… I don’t know that. Auuuuuuuugh.

Mommypoints: How do you know so much about Airbus engines?

Ben: Well you have to know these things when you don’t have incredibly cute kids to blog about, y’know.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community Milepoint.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Waited in line for almost in hour in IAH friday morning, and the TSA agent asked every person for their first and last name, no one objected that I saw.

  2. I had a similar experience with TSA. Was at HND (Tokyo) waiting for my flight home to DTW (Detroit). At checkin, the counter agent apologized to me, indicating to me that I was randomly selected for “extra inspection”. I knew what was coming, since I was travelling by myself and with no checked luggage. What was disappointing was that this “extra security” was forewarned, and before I actually passed security. So if, in theory, I planned to do something bad on the flight, I can, at this time, decide to abort, or simply walk away into the night. Anyway, fast forward 3 hours later, the gate agent and the security staff was ready, but refused to “extra inspect” me until T-minus-5 minutes… They took my back pack, took out every single item. Made me turn on my cell phone, camera and MP3 player, squeezed every piece of my dirty clothes, opened and closed my umbrella, and even flipped through my magazines and opened up all of my maps, even after determining it was just paper… Strangely, they did not look very deep in my toiletry bag, which I thought was strange… I had unmarked containers that contained shampoo, but they won’t know that……. I was thoroughly felt up by the Japanese inspector…. That took at least 10 minutes. I didn’t feel any safer on the flight…

  3. The last few times I have been to the airport they asked name and either a layover or the final destination of my trip. I see no reason to object, to do so just delays the line and doesn’t serve any purpose.

  4. Asking the passenger’s name and destination constitutes “interrogation”?

    Whatever point you were trying to make was lost in your disingenuous hyperbole.

  5. “Whatever point you were trying to make was lost in your disingenuous hyperbole”

    Umm, Lucky’s post just reminded me of a scene from Monty Python’s Holy Grail, that’s “disingenuous hyperbole”..?

  6. Well not EVERYONE appreciates the Python humor. And if they don’t, they shouldn’t be flying!;-)

  7. I was at JFK on Thurdsay and they were asking for this for the first time (at T7, British Airways/US Airways). I was flying in F domestic to CLT on US and so I was going through the first class security entrance. Every other passenger seemed to have a passport in hand going international on BA. They were all getting asked this question.

    They did not ask me this question, maybe it was because I was domestic? Was Ben going internationally? Regardless, the TSA front line employees don’t need to ask you for your destination as a prerequisite to travel. What if we had TSA at football games/nascar races to prevent terrorism within. Would they require to know which seat you had in the stadium?

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