Your uncontrollable fits of rage toward the TSA haven't gone unnoticed. TSA chief John Pistole recently told a Congressional panel that he plans to implement strategies that are effective, yet allow passengers to travel without the feeling that TSA agents think they've killed someone and are determined to find incriminating evidence in their luggage, shoes, or hair. In fact, some of these policies have already been put into place, but since the TSA has a knack for angering the public, it's mainly big spenders who are being let through security with their jackets and dignity intact.
The New York Times reports that about a month ago, the TSA started allowing a handful of passengers enroll in its new PreCheck program, which allows them to move through a special security line with significantly less harassment at airports in Atlanta, Detroit, Dallas, and Miami. So far those offered a spot in the program have been Up In The Air types whose travel habits airlines are most familiar with. The policy makes sense, but those in the program also just happen to spend a tremendous amount of money on air travel.
Last week Pistole says told Congress that those in the program move through security lines more quickly and may be, "able to divest fewer items, such as leaving their shoes on and their belt and a light jacket, along with keeping their laptops in a briefcase and keeping their liquids and aerosols and gels in their carry-on bag." But the luxury of not having your clothing and belongings rifled through comes at a price. Qualified passengers must "volunteer information about themselves prior to flying." It's unclear what PreCheck flyers are asked, but if we know the TSA, it involves uncomfortable questions about your preferred style of underwear and requires you to list embarassing medications you're taking.
Pistole says the program has been working extremely well and he wants to expand it to more airports. According to the L.A. Times, at Boston's Logan Airport the TSA has also tried using behavior detection officers who talk with passengers and try to pick out those who behave suspiciously. The agency recently started testing the policy in Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport as well. The TSA has also changed its policies to reduce the number of children under 12 getting a full pat down.
If you aren't among what American Airlines calls its "most premium frequent-flier members," your holiday air travel will still be as hellish as ever, but take comfort in the thought that someday you may be able to travel without having an intimate encounter with a TSA agent. It's heartening that the agency is finally recognizing that there are less traumatizing screening methods that actually boost effectiveness, and in a few months (or years) they may be available to the plebes as well as the George Clooneys of the world.