Hassled At The Airport? It’s Not Always TSA … Exploring This Topic Once Again

Who is to blame, or at least complain about, at the airport? This is a topic that has been discussed before, but one that seems to need repeating. Reading my email, following Twitter and other online travel conversations, it seems that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) are to blame for everything.


Yes, granted, dealing with the TSA can be a challenge at times, and the agency isn’t always known to employ the friendliest people, but there is plenty of blame to go around … and i’m not even sure where to start, so I’ll just go over the basics.


Passengers typically only encounter the TSA at the security screening checkpoint. TSA staff may be found in the departures areas and around the gates, but they do not often venture further from these areas, with the exception of K-9 units and Behaviour Detection Officers (BDO). TSA Uniforms are distinct, for starters with the exception of the limited number of TSA staff that are not unformed, the front line staff wear bright blue shirts, on the right shoulder is a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Transportation Security Administration circular patch, on the left shoulder is a circular patch with a black and white eagle racing through the United States Flag, with the words “Integrity * Team * Spirit * Innovation” and Transportation Security Administration“. On every uniforms shoulder, even the dark blue sweater or vests are epaulettes that read “TSA.”


With basics of the TSA uniform out of the way … let me dig into this …


First off, the person who may meet you at the curb and take your baggage to check it in is not a member of the TSA. This person is a SkyCap (sometimes referred to as a RedCap, but red caps are at train stations, SkyCaps are at the airport). As SkyCaps work for tips, they generally are very accommodating and polite, but should you encounter one that is rude … they are not part of the TSA.


So saying “The TSA took my bag at the curb and didn’t properly tag my bag” is incorrect. The TSA never touched your bag at the curb, and the TSA doesn’t tag checked baggage.


TSA Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) are not armed. There are some armed members of the TSA, from the Office of Law Enforcement, but they do not typically work security checkpoints. If you see someone in a blue uniform, with a badge on their shirt and a gun in an airport, typically they are a police officer. They may be another Federal Agency, but at security screening, uniforms and funs tend to police officers.


Should you have a negative encounter at a screening checkpoint, stating that you felt intimidated by a TSA TSO because they kept placing their hand on their gun, would be incorrect. No TSA TSO would have a gun to place their hand on. You were dealing with some member of law enforcement and TSA TSOs are not law enforcement.


The people outside terminals handling traffic control and parking are typically from a Traffic Control unit, Police or Private Security working with the airport. The TSA does not handle traffic or parking issues.


Complaining that the TSA had your car towed from outside the airport while you went to drop your bags is incorrect.


The TSA doesn’t have cars towed and no commercial airport in the United States has allowed curbside parking in more than a decade. You can park for a moment if your car is attended. In some rare instances, you may somehow get someone to say you can walk into the terminal for a moment, but that is rare … but if you just parked your car and just walked inside, chances are the police or airport authority had your car towed … not to mention … how long were you inside the terminal that a tow truck could have been called, arrived and hauled your car off???


As for the TSA and arrivals … for starters, the TSA does not handle international arrivals, nor does the handle deportations.


Yes the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is the TSA’s parent agency, but if you encounter an interview upon arrival, while walking from your flight to passport control, or some issue with passport control, the TSA was not involved. If this happened to you, you encountered Customs and Border Protection (CBP), also a DHS agency.


At no time did the TSA refuse to stamp anyone’s passport and send them to secondary.


As you pick up your luggage from an international flight and walk towards the exit with the your CBP 6059B Customs Declaration Card the TSA is no where to be found. Should you find a Beagle sniffing your bag and someone asking you to open your bags, you have encountered the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) ’Beagle Brigade.’   The USDA’s APHIS works in conjunction with CBP and wears the same DHS uniform.   TSA didn’t ask you to open your bag, TSA didn’t question you … the USDA APHIS did, and you should have properly declared what was in your baggage.


Yes, the TSA is easy to blame, and they can blamed for many of their own issues, but there are plenty of agencies travelers can complain about when traveling within the United States.


Happy Flying!





  1. This article is excellent. Most of the flying public aren’t particularly smart. Instead of complaining about an agency they didn’t even deal with, how about they educate themselves on who they are even complaining about before they spout off some nonsense. The TSA isn’t the best bunch of people to deal with but blaming them for things that have absolutely nothing to do with them is ridiculous.

  2. Keith,

    A “standing car” would not be towed away.

    You know how long you’d need to be away from your vehicle, where you can’t see it, to have it towed? At least a few minutes, probably at a minimum 15 minutes.

    Happy Flying!


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