Skift Take

Making 1.8-million people happy a day is hard and that's essentially what the TSA is trying to accomplish. Finally offering to hear complaints publicly is a good first step, even if the TSA knows what it's going to hear.

Sure, you can get a group of people riled up talking politics, but if you want to set off real fireworks, mention the TSA.

That’ll get ’em going.

And perhaps partly because of that, the Transportation Security Administration has formed a passenger advocacy group. It’s a subcommittee of the Aviation Security Advisory Committee. After an initial meeting earlier this month, it meets again Friday.

This may sound very bureaucratic, but a couple of the advocacy group’s members don’t.

Of the TSA, Douglas Kidd, executive director of the National Assn. of Airline Passengers and a member of the subcommittee, said, “I look at these guys, and if there’s a bad way to do things, these guys have found it.”

But, he added, “I’m really glad that TSA has formed this passenger advocacy subcommittee. We are trying to bring to them [the idea] that there’s some need for improvement.

“When I went to the last meeting, one of the troubling things [was that] TSA thinks they are doing a great job and that the complaint level, which they claim is 8%, is OK. I talked to my barber about this and asked ‘Could you survive if 8% of your customers complained?’ My barber said he couldn’t survive if 2% complained.”

Charlie Leocha, director of the Consumer Travel Alliance and also a subcommittee member, cited as a misfire the TSA effort to communicate with the public through its blog.

“If you go and look at some of the [TSA blog], it’s sent out in such a condescending manner…. What kind of message does the government send when this is an official denigrating what people are saying?”

Both men, however, are interested in helping TSA improve the passenger experience, and they applaud TSA for reaching out. “Before the meeting, I was skeptical,” Leocha said. “Everybody from TSA I met was very positive about the committee and they actually seemed genuinely interested.”

The TSA, according to testimony in June by its administrator, John Pistole, to the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Transportation Safety, “facilitate[s] air travel for 1.8-million people per day” in 450 U.S. airports.

On this point few people disagree: It’s a huge task.

Still, in notes from the first meeting, Kidd wrote, “They would like us to change our views. We must help them change theirs.”

Other members of the group include chairman Geoff Freeman of the U.S. Travel Assn., co-chair Karin E. Glasgow of TSA, and Glenn Johnson of Victims of Pan Am Flight 103.

The group will report its findings to Pistole.

(c)2012 the Los Angeles Times. Distributed by MCT Information Services


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