The Resurgence Of “Keep Your Boarding Pass Out In The Passenger Screening Area”

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has long since done away with the redundant process of requiring passengers to present their boarding pass to a Transportation Security Officer (TSO) before passenger screening, after they have already presented their identification and travel documents to the TSO acting as a travel document checker.


The process of double checking already verified travel documents just a few feet from where they had already been checked was proven to not enhance security, slow down the passenger screening process, and tie up a TSO’s attention in the screening area.   Now, following the domestic act of terrorism in Boston this past Monday, on the 15th of April, certain airports have adjusted their own security procedures in what the TSA refers to as “random security” to “throw off the routine of potential threats.”


This morning while on my way to catch a flight from Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI) I was caught off guard after I had presented my identification and boarding pass and proceeded towards to passenger screening. I was approached by a TSO who informed me that she needed to inspect my boarding pass. I enquired as to why and was told “this is a new procedure,” and that she knew nothing more. I handed the TSO my boarding pass then after clearing security approached a Supervisor Transportation Security Officer (STSO) and enquired about the reinstitution of checking of checking boarding passes, as I did not encounter this while flying yesterday from Providence’s T.F. Green Airport, and was informed “The FSD [Federal Security Director] has ordered the double checking of all boarding passes following the events in Boston this week, ensuring better security for passengers.”   I was also told that these changes to passenger screening procedures are occurring on an airport by airport basis, it was not a policy change from the upper management at the TSA.


I understand the theory behind random security changes to break up a person’s routine as an immediate threat deterrent, however I am once again stumped as to how this security procedure would ever deter a threat.


If we use the two brothers who set off bombs in Boston as an example, no one knew who they were, no one knew their names, and TSOs do not have a ‘watch list,’ so if they were planning an attack on an aircraft, how would double checking their boarding prevent their actions?  The second check of travel documents is not to check identification, just travel documents.


Does the TSA not trust their initial travel document checkers?  What intelligence are these second document checkers looking for?  These TSOs are not Behavior Detection Officers  (BDO) looking for microfacial tell-tall-signs … a technique that has never been proven to work or be effective in a real world airport environment with TSA trained agents.


Aviation security must be proactive, not reactive. The Transportation Security Administration’s front line Transportation Security Officers are not law enforcement nor are they charged with any law enforcement investigative tasks. Transportation Security Officers are not airline revenue protection agents.   Transportation Security Officers and their immediate superiors are not able to change Standard Operating Procedure on a whim. So in the wake of the terrible acts of terrorism Boston the TSA should be more focused on their task at hand.


The task at hand for the TSA is to look for threats to aviation security using what is available to them. Security is enhanced when the agency stays on mission and sticks to procedures that are effective, rather than reviving older procedures that are proven wholly ineffective.


Happy Flying!




  1. I got double checked at FLL within about 12 feet from the initial check when stuck behind stanchions between the ID valdation and the xray machine. Stupidity and wasted manpower at its best

  2. Another example of managing from the top. Whoever runs the TSA has an idea to randomly add in security measures to thwart terrorists. But if everyone is trained the same way, why would someone who got through the first checkpoint be stopped by the second guy? The only thing this would fix is catching someone who thought they could just slip past the first guy without a boarding pass and somehow get on a plane. I’m sure that’s what a sophisticated organization would do, rather than find some way to fake information on a piece of paper that passengers can print at home.

  3. I flew out of BWI two weeks ago and had this happen, so it’s not related to Boston.

  4. I too confirm the above poster’s experience. I fly in/out of BWI twice a week. This was added at BWI one week before the Boston marathon, so it has nothing to do with that. I asked the screeners and they didn’t know why either. It is stupid and a waste of time. Wish they would focus their efforts elsewhere that can yield something useful.

  5. Maybe the TSA simply doesn’t trust the first check. After all, it’s got to be the most boring job on earth.

    I could not stop laughing out loud for ages after going through the security theatre recently at FLL. The TSA agent checking documents slowly and carefully checked every single item on the boarding pass against the ID, circling each item in turn on the BP as it passe inspection. They finally handed both items back to me and waved me away.

    At no point did the TSA agent ever once look at me or anyone else.

    The boarding pass definitely matched the ID – but the ID could have been anybody’s!

  6. Some years ago, when they were still checking ID & BP at the gate before, in addition to the security line, I checked in at the ticket counter at MCO for my Airtran flight (my organization still issued paper tickets for Airtran at the time). No problems until I was in my seat, and a passenger came up who also had a BP for the same exact seat. Turns out, we shared the same last name but completely different first name and middle initial. The airline checked me in under the other man’s name, and the TSA smurf and the GA both “supposedly” looked right at the BP and my Driver’s License, never noticing the discrepancy (obviously I hadn’t inspected the BP either so bad on me for that). All told, 3 people whose job it was to ensure the BP, ID, and passenger matched, failed (OK, 4 including me!)

    Luckily I was able to get a seat, as technically as far as Airtran’s systems were concerned, I had never checked in and wasn’t at the gate 10/15 minutes prior to departure!

  7. I flew out of BWI twice at the end of March (A&B checkpoints) and they asked for my boarding pass before being screened then, so this is definitely not that new. Annoying though.

  8. Wait they tell me to put my wallet and everything in the xray before I go into the body scanner. I thought i wasn’t supposed to have anything on me. Am I supposed to hold on to things now?

  9. I fly out out of BWI every week and haven’t been asked for the additional BP check including yesterday morning. May it be related to my using the TSA Pre-check on Concourse D?

    However I had run into this in the past month on return flights so its not Boston related

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