TSA snafu

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Sep 10, 2018
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#1
I am a frequent flyer - mostly on American Airlines, (Platinum) and I like the fact that the TSA pre-check affords me the luxury of not having to take off my shoes, nor take out my computer or liquids from my carry-on bag.

Yesterday, I flew home (internationally) from Iceland. I followed all the requirements - my husband & I arrived at the airport several hours before the flight, had my passport in hand, checked in my luggage and sailed through the security.

Moments before the flight was to board, they made an announcement and called several names to report to the desk at the gate. A few minutes later, more names were called. And then a few minutes later, more names. This continued until approx. 20 names were called and summoned to the desk. My name was among them. I went to the desk - which was a chaotic scene since folks were also beginning the boarding process. I inquired why my name was called and they said I was randomly selected for extra security screening. The gate agent took away my passport and boarding pass and told me to get my carry-on bags and to report to the area behind the gate desk check-in. I didn't want to release my passport, but had no choice and watched as they handed my passport and boarding pass to a TSA agent standing behind a table, inspecting others whose names were called before mine.

They had plenty of time to accomplish this extra screening - even after the plane arrived and was being readied for the return trip to Dallas. Why they waited until boarding is beyond me! It created such a bottle-neck in the gate area, which is chaotic on a good day!

I went to collect my things and to tell my husband what had transpired. When I got back to the desk, I ran into the agent who helped us with our baggage earlier, he said that since I was traveling with my husband, he could join me in the area to await my extra screening. We watched as the 2 TSA agents called names, looked through folks belongings (every zipper on all carry-ons needed to be opened, shoes taken off, laptops opened and some camera lens removed from camera bodies. Hands were swabbed and inspected, as were shoes. I continue to watch as the TSA agents carelessly handled passports - shuffling them as if they were a deck of cards and sometimes tossed on the table where they were working. Minutes passed between each screening as they would look at the name in the passport, close them, stuff them back in the pile (in no particular order) and continued to do that - there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to their order. In the meantime, passengers are continuing to board the plane, walking through and past the area where we were standing and sitting. Now almost ALL passengers were aboard and my husband and I were left in a relatively empty area. A TSA agent then asked my name. They said they didn't have my passport. Alarmed, I was asked who took my passport & I answered the agent with a long braid. They all looked at each other with a blank stare and then a kind of keystone cop atmosphere took over.

All 4 agents began searching the area - behind the table they were using, under the machine used for swabbing results - even getting down on hands and knees to check the floor air conditioning vents! Then the questions began, "Exactly who did I give my passport to? Who did she give it to?" And then miraculously, an errant passport appears - only I could tell at a distance - that it wasn't mine. I had a paper boarding pass and the passport they were bringing over to me had a cardstock boarding pass. I didn't need to open it to know it didn't belong to me. They insisted it must be mine. Open it, I said, and they asked me if it was mine - NO- that's NOT MY NAME OR PHOTO. Are you sure??? YES, I AM SURE!

Now my husband is beginning to lose his cool - I'm still managing to keep it together, and I insist that he gets on the plane in case they decide to take off and he can get them to stall. I tell the agents that all they need to do is check the passenger list and check it against the found passport. if that person is on the plane, the passports were probably carelessly switched (& not recognized by the passenger as NOT hers) and to send a representative to the plane and ask her for her passport. Simple? Yes, they agree and tell me that they already sent someone. Great! That person returns (after several minutes - it's a long walk to the plane!) and says that the husband refuses to give up his wife's passport. WHAT??? Did they go to the plane with her passport? NO! They send someone else with the found passport and convince the jerk, I mean passenger to look at his wife's passport and they actually show him that they have it, meaning he must have someone else's. The TSA agent returns triumphantly with my boarding pass and passport and sheepishly announces, "We're sorry, this has never happened before - you can board now."

This part, lest you think it was just a few minutes, was well over 1/2 hour - the time it takes to board a plane and the extra screenings. I was VERY patient and unnerved.

Now comes Part 2 of my plight. I head up the escalator and when I get to the landing above, I find myself in an empty, darkened vestibule with a corridor that's cordoned off with stanchions and tape and an elevator. There were no people in sight, no signs, nor could I read them even if there were signs. I am already shaking from this experience and have tears in my eyes at this point. When I was below I could see the runway above me, and the only pathway open was the elevator to my left. I get in and push the top button which goes to "2". Nothing happens. So, I push the "1" button (remembering that in many countries, the first floor is "0" and not "1" like in the US. That brings me back to the gate agents who rudely announce - go to "2" and before I can say I tried that, the doors close and I find myself again in a cold, dark corridor. So I walk a few steps forward when I notice another corridor that I couldn't see standing by the elevator. I run down that ramp and it leads me to the plane. YEAH! As I get on the plane, the flight attendant says to me, "We held the plane just for you."
Really??? I said I hadn't done anything to warrant this treatment! I didn't cause the problem. I boarded mid-plane while several passengers glared at me & announced loudly they will miss their connecting flights because of me. The pilot actually had to make an announcement saying that even though we were delayed, we would still arrive in time for all to make their flights.

I had a business class ticket (we splurged so that we could board early and relax and have overhead space - look how good that turned out!!!) and as I headed to my seat, economy passengers were stuffing their bags in the overhead bins in my section. The flight attendant is grilling one guy on how many pieces of carry-on he had and I am dying to just sit and put my backpack above me. My husband helped me rearrange things so I wouldn't have to put my stuff in another part of the plane, which apparently was full!

I think TSA needs to know about this - their handling of sensitive documents was abysmal! And I was surprised that no one from American Airlines came to my defense to help facilitate, considering that they wanted to depart asap.

Who do I contact??
 
Sep 19, 2015
2,456
3,737
113
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#2
I am a frequent flyer - mostly on American Airlines, (Platinum) and I like the fact that the TSA pre-check affords me the luxury of not having to take off my shoes, nor take out my computer or liquids from my carry-on bag.

Yesterday, I flew home (internationally) from Iceland. I followed all the requirements - my husband & I arrived at the airport several hours before the flight, had my passport in hand, checked in my luggage and sailed through the security.

Moments before the flight was to board, they made an announcement and called several names to report to the desk at the gate. A few minutes later, more names were called. And then a few minutes later, more names. This continued until approx. 20 names were called and summoned to the desk. My name was among them. I went to the desk - which was a chaotic scene since folks were also beginning the boarding process. I inquired why my name was called and they said I was randomly selected for extra security screening. The gate agent took away my passport and boarding pass and told me to get my carry-on bags and to report to the area behind the gate desk check-in. I didn't want to release my passport, but had no choice and watched as they handed my passport and boarding pass to a TSA agent standing behind a table, inspecting others whose names were called before mine.

They had plenty of time to accomplish this extra screening - even after the plane arrived and was being readied for the return trip to Dallas. Why they waited until boarding is beyond me! It created such a bottle-neck in the gate area, which is chaotic on a good day!

I went to collect my things and to tell my husband what had transpired. When I got back to the desk, I ran into the agent who helped us with our baggage earlier, he said that since I was traveling with my husband, he could join me in the area to await my extra screening. We watched as the 2 TSA agents called names, looked through folks belongings (every zipper on all carry-ons needed to be opened, shoes taken off, laptops opened and some camera lens removed from camera bodies. Hands were swabbed and inspected, as were shoes. I continue to watch as the TSA agents carelessly handled passports - shuffling them as if they were a deck of cards and sometimes tossed on the table where they were working. Minutes passed between each screening as they would look at the name in the passport, close them, stuff them back in the pile (in no particular order) and continued to do that - there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to their order. In the meantime, passengers are continuing to board the plane, walking through and past the area where we were standing and sitting. Now almost ALL passengers were aboard and my husband and I were left in a relatively empty area. A TSA agent then asked my name. They said they didn't have my passport. Alarmed, I was asked who took my passport & I answered the agent with a long braid. They all looked at each other with a blank stare and then a kind of keystone cop atmosphere took over.

All 4 agents began searching the area - behind the table they were using, under the machine used for swabbing results - even getting down on hands and knees to check the floor air conditioning vents! Then the questions began, "Exactly who did I give my passport to? Who did she give it to?" And then miraculously, an errant passport appears - only I could tell at a distance - that it wasn't mine. I had a paper boarding pass and the passport they were bringing over to me had a cardstock boarding pass. I didn't need to open it to know it didn't belong to me. They insisted it must be mine. Open it, I said, and they asked me if it was mine - NO- that's NOT MY NAME OR PHOTO. Are you sure??? YES, I AM SURE!

Now my husband is beginning to lose his cool - I'm still managing to keep it together, and I insist that he gets on the plane in case they decide to take off and he can get them to stall. I tell the agents that all they need to do is check the passenger list and check it against the found passport. if that person is on the plane, the passports were probably carelessly switched (& not recognized by the passenger as NOT hers) and to send a representative to the plane and ask her for her passport. Simple? Yes, they agree and tell me that they already sent someone. Great! That person returns (after several minutes - it's a long walk to the plane!) and says that the husband refuses to give up his wife's passport. WHAT??? Did they go to the plane with her passport? NO! They send someone else with the found passport and convince the jerk, I mean passenger to look at his wife's passport and they actually show him that they have it, meaning he must have someone else's. The TSA agent returns triumphantly with my boarding pass and passport and sheepishly announces, "We're sorry, this has never happened before - you can board now."

This part, lest you think it was just a few minutes, was well over 1/2 hour - the time it takes to board a plane and the extra screenings. I was VERY patient and unnerved.

Now comes Part 2 of my plight. I head up the escalator and when I get to the landing above, I find myself in an empty, darkened vestibule with a corridor that's cordoned off with stanchions and tape and an elevator. There were no people in sight, no signs, nor could I read them even if there were signs. I am already shaking from this experience and have tears in my eyes at this point. When I was below I could see the runway above me, and the only pathway open was the elevator to my left. I get in and push the top button which goes to "2". Nothing happens. So, I push the "1" button (remembering that in many countries, the first floor is "0" and not "1" like in the US. That brings me back to the gate agents who rudely announce - go to "2" and before I can say I tried that, the doors close and I find myself again in a cold, dark corridor. So I walk a few steps forward when I notice another corridor that I couldn't see standing by the elevator. I run down that ramp and it leads me to the plane. YEAH! As I get on the plane, the flight attendant says to me, "We held the plane just for you."
Really??? I said I hadn't done anything to warrant this treatment! I didn't cause the problem. I boarded mid-plane while several passengers glared at me & announced loudly they will miss their connecting flights because of me. The pilot actually had to make an announcement saying that even though we were delayed, we would still arrive in time for all to make their flights.

I had a business class ticket (we splurged so that we could board early and relax and have overhead space - look how good that turned out!!!) and as I headed to my seat, economy passengers were stuffing their bags in the overhead bins in my section. The flight attendant is grilling one guy on how many pieces of carry-on he had and I am dying to just sit and put my backpack above me. My husband helped me rearrange things so I wouldn't have to put my stuff in another part of the plane, which apparently was full!

I think TSA needs to know about this - their handling of sensitive documents was abysmal! And I was surprised that no one from American Airlines came to my defense to help facilitate, considering that they wanted to depart asap.

Who do I contact??

Wait a minute -- you were flying home from Iceland when this happened? Iceland does not have the TSA. ICeland does not have TSA Precheck.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
13,373
13,044
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#5
The others are correct. There is no TSA PreCheck in Iceland. Pre-check is only in the US.

You go through regular security outside the US. And foreign airports often randomly pull people for secondary screening.

You don’t have a legitimate complaint I’m sorry to say.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#6
And honestly you had a 30 minute extra screening. It happens; your passport was not lost. The plane did not leave without you. If this something that brings you to tears, I would suggest looking at the bigger picture. You made the flight. You landed safely.

I went through extra screening in London that took even longer, this was not at the gate. This is part of travel it can be a hassle but if the choice is endure screening or stay home I chose to travel and not stay home.

But to think that PreCheck and the TSA have anything to do in a foreign country is a little naive — you traveled to a place where you needed a passport, US dollars are not the currency, and there is a different language and political system. AA can not interfere with security.

It is a shame the world is still in a such a state that this security is needed but this is the way it is.
 
Likes: Neil Maley

Barry Graham

Administrator
Staff Member
Director
Jan 7, 2015
867
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#7
I think there is a legitimate complaint against whoever was responsible (most likely Iceland security) for misplacing the passport and letting a passenger get lost on the way to the plane while they were already stressed out. Maybe if you write to the airline they will tell you who to complain to?
 
Apr 10, 2017
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#8
The craziest part of this story is the guy who refuses to look at his wife's passport. For whatever reason she didn't have it herself but who wouldn't at least look at it? They would have been the very people pitching a fit when she was denied entry back into the U.S.
 
Likes: krisseye
Jul 27, 2016
969
1,173
93
#9
I do not think this happened in the US -- unless Iceland was recently annexed........
It happened in Iceland, but these pointless and redundant screenings for flights to the US are being done at the request of TSA, and under rules set by TSA, so TSA is responsible, even if they contract out the actual screenings. A complaint to TSA is appropriate, since TSA needs to know when the people doing the screenings on their behalf screw up like this. Again, not that TSA will do anything about it, but can't hurt to lodge the complaint.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#10
It happened in Iceland, but these pointless and redundant screenings for flights to the US are being done at the request of TSA, and under rules set by TSA, so TSA is responsible, even if they contract out the actual screenings. A complaint to TSA is appropriate, since TSA needs to know when the people doing the screenings on their behalf screw up like this. Again, not that TSA will do anything about it, but can't hurt to lodge the complaint.
The TSA is not demanding this. Homeland Security demanded more screening at gates otherwise the laptop ban/electronics ban was going to be extended to Europe or Asia. This was an executive power level decision beyond the TSA.
 
Jul 27, 2016
969
1,173
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#11
The TSA is not demanding this. Homeland Security demanded more screening at gates otherwise the laptop ban/electronics ban was going to be extended to Europe or Asia. This was an executive power level decision beyond the TSA.
These redundant screenings long predate the 2017 laptop ban, although they may well have been expanded. In any case, TSA is the part of DHS in charge of implementing aviation security, so it's clearly the organization responsible for how screenings are carried out.
 
Likes: Neil Maley
Sep 12, 2018
3
3
3
40
#12
Wait a minute -- you were flying home from Iceland when this happened? Iceland does not have the TSA. ICeland does not have TSA Precheck.
I can confirm having gone through the exact same process returning from mainland Europe through Keflavik. They do this, and I have no idea by what authority or agreement, but at least in my case, it appeared to be American staff doing the extra checks.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
6,856
6,779
113
San Francisco
#13
Skandell, this was indeed an awful experience, I am impressed that you kept your cool as these goons bounced you around. I would cut your letter by 50%, state the facts only, no emotion, be polite and businesslike. My colleagues have given you several bits of information as to who is responsible, hopefully you can find out which US agency is connected with the Icelandic authorities. I am also a very frequent traveller, and I would have been unnerved by this whole scene. Then I'd get angry for sure. I'm glad you just slogged through it and got on the plane. Be proud of yourself for your dignified behaviour. If you want to post a draft of your letter here, we'll be glad to critique it.
 
Likes: SKroot
Sep 19, 2015
2,456
3,737
113
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#14
These redundant screenings long predate the 2017 laptop ban, although they may well have been expanded. In any case, TSA is the part of DHS in charge of implementing aviation security, so it's clearly the organization responsible for how screenings are carried out.
The interest in swabbing for explosives has to do with the Homeland Security Directives. Only anecdotal, but I fly to and from Europe at least 3 times a year for the past 20 years. FRA had done away with mandatory second screening until 2017 for over a decade.

But the fact is that the OP was complaining that she has Precheck and actually called the Icelandic security TSA screeners. They are not. They seem to interpret the directives in their own way that is different. There was no similar issues when I flew back from Munich in July or Frankfurt in March or London in February. In FRA there was no taking of passports and maybe 10 passengers out of a 747 were sent to secondary screening and they were chosen as they walked into the boarding gate — no calling of names, just chosen as they walked by. For once I was incredibly early at the gate and just watched. I was not early to the gate at MUC or LHR so I cannot comment, but there was no delay and I did not see people lined up or waiting for additional screening— and I was one of the last to board.

So really what will writing to the TSA do? They did not mandate this and these are not their employees; write to Icelandic authorities if one wants to be heard.

There are people with legitimate TSA complaints and their concerns may be lost in a tsunami of irrelevant letters. TSA does aviation security in the US they have zero to do with foreign airports following And interpreting DHS mandates.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
13,373
13,044
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#15
My wife had this happen to her in Turks/Caicos. She was the very last person on the plane. It happens- there is no choice but gocdesk every th it if you want to get home.

Please remember - you are in someone else’s country that don’t have thd same laws we have here.
 
Jun 30, 2017
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Maui Hawaii
#16
In checking the UA site for info on Florence I came across this notice (so DHS has required new screening):

Additional security measures for international flights to the U.S.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requires additional security measures for all international flights to the U.S., which may result in extra screening for everyday items such as powder, food, books, magazines and large electronics.

Per the DHS, beginning June 30, 2018, some travelers may also be subject to additional security measures to prohibit powder-based substances greater than what would fit in a standard soda can (12 fluid ounces or 350 milliliters) packed in carry-on bags and personal items. If the substance is in excess of the allowed amount, it won’t be permitted in the cabin of the aircraft. There are some exemptions, including baby formula, medically necessary powder and human remains.

Please note that some foreign governments who perform this screening at the central checkpoint may follow more strict measures, including confiscating and disposing of powder-based substances in excess of permitted quantities.

We recommend all customers place any items that resemble powder in checked baggage to avoid any disruption to travel.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recommends arriving at the airport at least three hours before your international flight, if possible, to allow time for the additional security measures. Be sure to view the airport check-in hours first.

For more information, please visit the DHS website. You may also contact @AskTSA via Twitter or Facebook Messenger with specific questions or visit TSA customer service.
 
Jul 2, 2018
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#18
Just another reason why I avoid travel to or via the USA. The security procedures for US flights are beyond reasonable, and it is a purely a show. Travel should be a pleasurable experience, and security checks like this with extra 'screening' makes travel a nightmare. So I now avoid flights to or via the USA, so that I can hopefully avoid these sorts of problems which are caused by so-called security screening.
Jerry
 

Barry Graham

Administrator
Staff Member
Director
Jan 7, 2015
867
787
93
#19
Just another reason why I avoid travel to or via the USA. The security procedures for US flights are beyond reasonable, and it is a purely a show. Travel should be a pleasurable experience, and security checks like this with extra 'screening' makes travel a nightmare. So I now avoid flights to or via the USA, so that I can hopefully avoid these sorts of problems which are caused by so-called security screening.
Jerry
The alternative is to do it the way that Israel does it which is much more effective but people in America think that's too invasive. I think it's a shame to miss traveling to the USA because of a few minutes of inconvenience.
 
Jul 2, 2018
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#20
There is lots of evidence that the security screening in the USA is not effective, have a look at some of the reports of things that have got through their security 'screening'. I believe that it is a show put on to reassure people, whereas the real criminals still manage to do what they want to do. The average traveller is now made to suffer an unreasonable amount of inconvenience and expense purely to play along with the security sham. As a lot of my travel is for leisure (and hence for pleasure) then I have made the decision to avoid the unpleasantness of USA security 'screening'. Travel is something that should be enjoyed, not endured.

Jerry
 
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