January 1, 2011

Airline Woes

This photo really doesn't make me feel sympathetic towards TSA agents.

The hot topic in the news now is how the TSA sucks at doing their job. An editorial in The Guardian described a few worst-case-scenarios in which passengers were moved to tears after being mistreated by TSA agents. Women have stories of TSA agents touching their labia, even their clitoris, while doing a standard pat down. Some were so horrified during the procedure that they broke down and cried, but the pat down must go on.

With all the negative press the TSA is getting, it's a little surprising (ok, maybe not all that surprising) that they're continuing on as if nothing is the matter. As if the TSA knows exactly what we're all saying about them and is pressing on even stronger just to spite us because they know we're powerless against them. That they'll grope and prod a little bit more because we whine and complain about it.

Which sucks.

However, a small ray of hopeful sunshine has graced the world of air travel. More airports are considering switching from TSA to private security. Executives are starting to realize that passengers are very stressed when moving through airports and that's bad for business. If passengers don't get that dreaded pit-in-the-stomach feeling going through security, aren't waiting in line for hours, and don't feel violated they might be a little less apprehensive and a little more willing to fly. Granted, for some people who fly very often there really isn't much choice, and granted there will still be the same security measures, like scanners and pat downs. But if employees can be fired on the spot for inappropriate behavior and if their profits depend on getting the job done right it shouldn't feel like a rape.

And speaking of rape, there are plenty of people who have had traumatic sexual experiences who couldn't handle being treated in such a way, in public. Is there job training for those situations? What does an agent do when a woman is shaking and in tears while spread eagle for a pat down? Letting her off the hook would pose a security threat, as any person could try faking terror, but continuing could send her to therapy or cause her to never fly again. And even people who have never had any sort of traumatic sexual experience feel highly uncomfortable with the intrusive searches. Whether or not airports move towards a private security company, there needs to be a method that will appease the TSAs security standards and make passengers feel comfortable. Unfortunately, because we're left with the choice of fly or don't go where we want to go, we feel helpless and are forced to put up with extreme violations.

Maybe the TSA and airlines can share a new year's resolution: make flying safer and more comfortable for passengers.

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