'Tis The Season To Be Frustrated
by ANN Managing Editor Rob Finfrock
Is it just a numbers game... or are
more travelers than ever fed up with the treatment they've received
at the hands of the Transportation Security Administration's best
and brightest? Well, that depends.
The Wall Street Journal reports TSA says a surge in complaints
in recent months is due to changes in the way the agency handles
complaints. TSA officials admit before May, the agency often lost
complaints, and under-reported travel-related gripes.
But few travelers believe that's the only reason for the
increase. They say screening is as big a hassle than ever... a
situation not helped by increasingly grumpy TSA personnel, some of
whom appear to passengers as being on an unwarranted power
"It is the scolding and harassing tone that I will never
understand," said Mary Ann Ramsey, president of a Florida travel
agency, who says a screener in Fort Meyers last week stopped her,
and said her quart bag of toiletry items was "too full."
TSA horror stories are nothing new... and lobbing complaints at
the agency is as easy, apparently, as smuggling components used to make IEDs
past screeners. But as more flyers than ever travel
through US airports this week, numbers of frustrated passengers
will only increase.
Complaints about TSA courtesy, processing time and procedures
fell sharply earlier this year... but began climbing in June. The
agency recorded a 9.2 percent jump in total number of complaints
over the same period in 2006; in August 2007, complaints were 88.1
percent higher than the same time last year.
TSA chief Kip Hawley says the sharp increase is due to the
agency's increasing efforts to handle complaints. In May, TSA built
up its customer service department, adding phone lines and
bandwidth to handle passenger gripes.
"Now we're able to receive all the input everyone calls in,"
There appears to be some truth to that supposition, though
Hawley couldn't explain why complaints in some categories --
including gripes about TSA service -- skyrocketed faster than
Perhaps frequent flyer Tom Zanecchia can shed some light on
that. He told the WSJ he and his wife complained to the TSA in
September, after a screener at Denver International Airport
screamed at their 20-year-old daughter for not removing her iPod
and camera from her bag. The screener then threw the items into a
bin, damaging the camera.
When the Zanecchias called the TSA to complain, the call center
worker admitted the screener was out of line -- but added without a
name, the agency couldn't do anything.
"Assuming TSA really does care about the treatment of travelers,
then it is important for anyone that is treated badly to get the
security person's name or badge number," said Zanecchia, founder
and president of a Denver financial consulting firm.
The family filed a damage claim on the camera, "but no response
as of yet," he added.
Some passengers paint a rosier picture of TSA, particularly
business travelers -- who are often able to speed through
security in special lines designated for elite-level customers and
"The consistency is better than the old days. The customer
service at the airport is better -- I haven't filed a complaint in
some time," said photographer David Fauss.