John Pistole Q&A Follow Up

Thank you to everyone who attended or submitted questions on your survey regarding the recent open forum with John Pistole, Executive Director of the TSA.  Below is a recap of those questions and answers:


QUESTION: Everyone is concerned about security, but what about the spread of diseases/germs? Public/TSA area where everyone takes off their shoes and the baskets used for personal items to go through security are filthy. Do they plan on sanitizing these areas on a continual basis?


ANSWER: The checkpoint floors are cleaned daily on a routine janitorial basis, typically overnight when the screening checkpoints are closed as well as any time there are spills. It is not practical or feasible to clean the floors during normal checkpoint operations without impacting screening operations, ultimately contributing to delays going through screening. We encourage passengers to wear booties or even the spa style paper slippers if they are concerned about walking barefoot on the floor, until we have technology available at our checkpoints to screen footwear for explosives without running through an xray machine.

Regarding Trays…Certainly trays can and do become dirty.  However, they are made of recyclable materials and are routinely replaced with brand new trays  provided at no cost to tax payers. Cost of recycled trays are covered by advertisements on the recyclable trays.


QUESTION: How is the TSA trying to remove the negative stereotype that is often reflected in the media?


ANSWER: Efforts just like this – engaging our Stakeholders to better inform the public about who we are, and the “why” behind the procedures that are in place. It is difficult to be “liked” when we’re often seen as an obstacle in the way of a person’s business trip or vacation, we make you stand in lines, take everything out of your pockets, make you take your shoes off, pat you down, etc. However Mr. Pistole has challenged all field leaders to engage the communities around us, including travel groups and associations, special needs groups, elected officials, media outlets, etc. to better educate everyone. We are American citizens just like those we strive to protect every day, and our procedures are in place to provide the most effective security in the most efficient way.


QUESTION: What is the name of the $85 trusted traveler program coming out this fall?


ANSWER: The program has not been given an official name as of yet. As Mr. Pistole shared, it will be similar to CBP’s trusted traveler program “Global Entry”, allowing users to participate in TSA expedited screening programs such as TSA Pre™.


QUESTION:  While the TSA pre-check program is excellent, does it risk diluting the search process should it expand too much as they would like it to do?

ANSWER: The principal behind TSA Pre™is to focus our limited resources on those we know the least about, or those we have determined could be a threat to transportation security. Participants in TSA Pre™have undergone background checks and are deemed trusted based on several parameters, as it relates to aviation security. Participants are subject to random searches, and everyone will continue to go through physical screening, albeit less intrusive, based on their lower risk to transportation security. 

Regarding Pre Check…Rather than dilute the search process, Pre Check moves some of the screening process to activities BEFORE the passenger arrives at the airport.  Just as the PRE Check name implies, the process screens passengers using the information they VOLUNTARILY provide about themselves. For example, early Pre Check members are high volume, premium award level travelers who apply and voluntarily participate after their high volume travel was identified by the airlines.  More recently, military members, and government employees with background checks and security clearances have been added.  Now, with the emerging TSA program to include travelers who voluntarily provide information about themselves, the Pre Check roles will grow.  Based on the confidence in the reduced accessed risk of the passenger, faster and easier screening AT THE AIRPORT is possible.  Thus resources and time are saved by TSA and the traveler.   As Pre Check roles increase, we will increase the number of lanes available to Pre Check passengers.   


QUESTION:     Who monitors the staffing levels at airports such as ORD? Hard to see any consistent staffing levels and many times not enough lanes are open.

ANSWER: All airports are staffed based on consistent modeling methodology to meet scheduled flight activity, based on both historical data, as well as projected data in partnership with the airlines. There are many variables that can impact the day-to-day operations including weather, flight delays, cancellations, local anomalies such as conventions, changes in flight schedules, and the list goes on. We strive to keep passenger wait times below 20-minutes, however wait times can occasionally exceed 20-minutes due to the many variables that impact our security checkpoints, some within our control, and many outside of our control. Travelers are always encouraged to arrive at the airport 2-hours before their scheduled departure time due the unpredictable nature of air travel.

Regarding flights and coordinating staff levels.  We are very sensitive to wait times.   We adjust our staffing and work closely with airlines as they routinely change schedules, adding, and removing flights.  Routinely airlines share their capacity loads and we have recently worked with some airlines who send emails to travelers warning them of anticipated crowds and the need to arrive in far in advance of their flights.  We flex using part time employees to ensure coverage at peak periods.  We also monitor lines at Check Points and move passengers to check points with shorter lines.  Even when fully staffed, and with all lines open, some peak periods create demand beyond the capacity of terminal check points.