Airport Security & Humanity … This Should Piss You Off

… and we’re back from our break. Kids are home for the summer, there is a beach at the end of my street, what can I say, I put on sun block and tuned out.  But, the vacation is over and rather than ease back into things, I guess I should just dive right in.


This evening as I waited in the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening line at New York’s JFK International Airport, Terminal 8, myself and five other travelers witnessed an elderly man place his bags on the screening table at screening lane one, then turn around and proceed to walk over to lane two (which requires walking all the way around the people in line, around the table, and entering a whole new lane) with a very confused look about him.


As the disoriented elderly man began to walk away from lane two, towards lane four, six separate people, myself included, informed a TSA Transportation Security Officer (TSO) who was checking travel documents that they should have a fellow TSO go speak with the man because he looked lost, disoriented, confused, he was walking with no shoes on and his hearing aid was out in his right hand. The TSA TSO ignored everyone, pretending as if she could not see the people in front of her or hear what they were saying. When I asked the TSO for her supervisor and was informed, “It is not my job.”


Just to be clear, outside the TSA screening lanes, it is not the TSO’s job, although it is the right thing to do when you see an elderly disoriented person wandering around with no shoes and their hearing aid out, through a crowded bustling airport … however inside the TSA security check point lanes, after identification and travel documents have been checked, but before the actual passenger screening, that is absolutely the TSO’s ‘area of operations’ and assisting people in the area is the TSO’s job.


As I went to go find a Supervisory Transportation Security Officer (STSO) a man dressed in a suit, holding a briefcase stepped out of the snaking line, approached the elderly man and proceeded to walk him to the front of the number four security screening lane and assist him in passing through the Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) scanner, then he himself got back in line.   When I found an STSO he told me it was not the job of the TSA to handle disoriented passengers, or assist the elderly, their focus was on the safety and security of the traveling public, but he would have a talk with the TSO who was checking documents, and he walked off to go sit behind the podium as I watched the disoriented elderly male meet up with an elderly woman, who looked a little worried, and take his items off the end of the x-ray conveyor belt at lane one.


Forget the potential security risks of items passing through the x-ray screening process without a passenger there with the bags, or that no one seemed concerned the items were at the end of the belt, unattended, for 3 to 5 minutes … in what world does a TSA TSO, or even worse their Supervisor, think it is not their job to assist a disoriented traveler inside their security checkpoint?


A seemingly disoriented passenger can pose risks to travelers. What if the disoriented traveler has a tendency to become aggressive when lost and in a busy area?  What if the disoriented traveler is a diversionary tactic?  What if the disoriented traveler intentionally acts this way to send a bag through x-ray that has a weapon in it and leaves the airport unnoticed because of their seemingly ‘elderly’ actions?


Threats aside, what if the disoriented elderly male, wandering the security lanes needed medical assistance? They obviously needed general assistance in the process.  This particular elderly man was someone’s husband, likely a father and grandfather and judging by the style blue baseball hat he put on before I lost sight of him, he served in the United States Military and if nothing else deserves the TSA’s respect for that.


I understand that the job of a TSA TSO checking documents is to match a passenger’s identification to a boarding pass. I understand that a TSA STSO’s job is to monitor the security of the checkpoint, but somewhere in the middle there needs to be common logic, a sense of humanity and the willingness to genuinely assist those in need.


The majority of people in an airport are not likely threats or potential risks and the fact of the matter is this, any airport personnel, be it the TSA, the airport police, a ramp agent walking to get lunch in the terminal, must have the mindset of “do good.” You don’t “do good” for the reward, or to advance corporate culture you do good because it is the right thing to do.


Over the years, like many of you, I have had my scuffles with the TSA. Some scuffles bigger than others (like them sending two Federal Agents to my house three times in two days), but I have never been genuinely pissed off at the actions of TSA Personnel, even while being detained … today however I am just enraged.


That elderly man, who needed help, who should be afforded the dignity he deserves, was somehow the responsibility of the passengers around him. People who were trying to pass through security, catch flights, people who only have the job of making it to their flight on time, stopped to try and asset this man … all while a TSA TSO and her Supervisor somehow thought it was not their problem.


This mindset, this is a problem. The inability of dozens of TSA TSO’s looking out at a line full of ‘potential’ threats’, and missing the obvious “which one of these does not belong” situations is a problem. If the TSA TSO’s cannot spot a disoriented elderly man, how will they spot the cool, calm, collected person who is seeking to do harm?


So, to the TSA Transportation Security Officer at JFK Airport’s Terminal 8, processing the Priority AAccess passengers in front of lane one this evening, around 15:00hrs, I have news for you. The man you refused to help today … he is your problem.


Happy Flying!




  1. Unfortunately that is likely due to the fact that TSA seems to hire the lowest of the low, those individuals that do not go out of their way (because if they did, those folks would probably have left the TSA very quickly). If it isn’t on the script, it just isn’t their problem, because they can’t comprehend anything off script.

    What a shame.

  2. Good read, so was the article about DHS agents. I was thinking, neat, I’ve found a new blogger I like.

    Then I read the comments plastered over the DHS agents article and am quite shocked you allowed that hate speech to be displayed on your page.

  3. Couldn’t agree more. Sad commentary on people who can’t think outside of their job box.

  4. It is the entitlement society where the me me me attitude is all that counts. Great analysis of most likely a common occurence in TSA lines across the country. When elderly person was first pointed out the TSA should have stepped in.

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