The latest abuse of a traveler by federal airport security may have you wondering if things will ever get better. The answer is not encouraging.
This time, it’s a woman, left mute by a stroke, denied boarding by a TSA inspector at Los Angeles International Airport for a flight to Phoenix.
Why? Because the inspector couldn’t get the woman to talk.
She had all her proper identification. Her ticket was in order. She had her sister with her to explain the situation.
No matter. Apparently in the mind(?) of this particular TSA gate guardian, if you can’t talk, you can’t fly.
The unfortunate woman did eventually reach Phoenix — after an eight-hour bus ride.
I’m beginning to think the main purpose of the TSA is to provide late-night talk show hosts with comedy material. I certainly hope so, anyway.
It would mean they were actually doing something worthwhile.
The TSA may not be the biggest reason that today’s air travel is such a miserable experience, but it’s usually the first one you encounter at the airport.
Stand a spell. Take your shoes off. Take your wallet out. Take off that faux leather belt and slowly back away from it while we radiate you a bit.
The federal government calls this security. Countries where they really do airport security, like Israel, call it a joke.
And the airport where this latest minor atrocity took place, is a major case in point.
It was only last year that an unemployed mechanic walked into LAX with a military-grade rifle and started shooting TSA inspectors. He shot three, killing one, before being wounded and captured by police.
These guys were there to protect the traveling public, but stalked by a gunman with a rifle and murder on his mind, they couldn’t even protect themselves.
By its own admission, albeit an unintended one, in papers filed in a federal lawsuit, the TSA itself doesn’t even believe that terrorists are plotting attacks on airliners anymore.
I’ll say it plain: The TSA in reality is little more than air travel theater, created to give travelers the impression — or more accurately, perhaps, the illusion — of airport security.
Where does this all leave the poor TSA inspectors? It leaves them with an important, difficult and largely thankless job, for which they are neither well-prepared nor well-paid.
A starting “Transportation Safety Officer” who graduates from trainee status earns between $29,300 and $44,000 a year. That works out to about $3.30 to $5 an hour.
A supervisor can make between $39,000 and $61,000 a year — or roughly $4.50 to $7 an hour.
Suddenly, flipping burgers at Mickey D’s doesn’t sound like such a bad gig.
Could the United States do better with airport security than the TSA in its current state? Could it attract a higher caliber of candidates as its TSOs? Of course, it could.
WHO WANTS TO PAY?
For that to happen, however, the requirements would have to be a lot tougher. The training would have to be much longer and more extensive. The salaries offered would have to be a lot more attractive.
And someone would have to be willing to pay for all that.
So who wants to step up with their checkbook? Congress? The airlines? The nation’s airports? You?
Let’s be real, shall we?
Washington is in no mood these days to raise spending on much of anything.
The airlines would rather eat tarmac than cut into their profits to pay for better airport security. The same is also true of the airports themselves.
Of course, the airlines always could raise airfares to cover the added security costs, but with travelers already chafing over a laundry list of costly add-on fees, how far do you think that idea would fly, with anybody?
What all this means is that, barring a major change by the feds in their approach to airport security, the TSA will remain what it has always been, a punchline without a laugh track.