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My "I was escorted out of the airport by the police" story

My "I was escorted out of the airport by the police" story

Old Aug 7, 11, 10:41 am
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My "I was escorted out of the airport by the police" story

There are a few airports in the US where all international arrivals are forced through TSA screening points upon arrival, even if they have no connecting flights to catch. Gathered from other threads, here is a partial list (let me know of more and I'll append it):

CLE, CLT, CVG, MEM, PIT, (which others?) Note ATL removed from list May 2012 due to new terminal. MCO also removed per flyertalker observation.

From recent searches, I can recall at least two persons who have declined this screening and been escorted out. One was flyertalker polonius, the other was blogger Matt Kernan. If there are any more stories please let me know. But for now I'd like to add just one more data point to the log of international arrival total-opt-outs. And yes, I got it on video:

http://youtu.be/QaP-oPInvTs

To summarize, everyone that I dealt with at PIT was very polite and professional. With the exception of the 3-striper who seemed to think the 4th amendment didn't apply, most seemed to have a good basic grasp of the applicable laws as well. After a little over an hour of off and on negotiations, I was escorted out the door. The best part is that I had a bottle of duty-free in my backpack, which I managed to keep

My only complaint about the experience is that it took just over an hour, despite the fact that the TSA manager (correctly) offered to escort me out after less than 10 minutes. I got the impression that the delay was due to everyone involved wanting to make sure they did things by the book (the CYA principle). Many efforts were made to persuade me to waive my rights, two attempts were made to get my ID. All such requests were denied, of course. I seemed to have to wear down the TSA and police to get them to do what the TSA boss promised early on - letting me go.

So if anyone has tried this, please post your stories. Keep in mind this only works on international arrivals to certain airports, for many you can (and must) simply walk out the door if not connecting. But if you find yourself trapped as I was and are opposed to the "screening process" for any reason, there's nothing wrong with standing your ground and doing a total-opt-out. Be polite, persistent and patient, and eventually they must let you go. The threat of missing a flight can't be used against you when you have no flight to catch!

Last edited by RedSnapper; May 29, 12 at 1:39 pm Reason: added MCO, CLT and CLE to list of re-screeners for departing passengers, removed ATL and MCO
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Old Aug 7, 11, 11:10 am
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Looks to me like they were just trying to wear you down, but wore down themselves because you stuck to your guns. Fortunately, you didn't encounter any TSOs or LEOs who were confrontational or agressive, or your situation might have turned out differently.

The PIT terminal maps are very schematic, so I don't know how difficult it might be to set up a dedicated departure lane from the international terminal to the non-sterile landside area, but somehoe I doubt that it would be impossible. It's just dumb that they have it set up so that nobody can exit the international arrivals area without being screened.

How many times did they ask you to "be reasonable" by totally giving in to everything they wanted?
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Old Aug 7, 11, 11:31 am
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I fly from PIT to CDG, non-stop on DL in September. This trip was intended to be my last flight (unless there is a family emergency), using my remaining miles, unless somehow TSA was brought under control. I picked this flight specifically because it was a non-stop and it would limit my interactions with TSA, or so I thought. I am now a bit (actually, very) upset that I'm going to have to be one of those "problem" people who refuse to go through TSA screening as I don't have a connecting flight.

Thanks for posting your experience. I'll be re-reading it and the other stories to make sure I'm squared away for my refusal when I return to PIT in October. I will not be patted down or badgered by TSA when I don't have a connecting flight to catch and I've been cleared by Immigration and Customs. Absolutely not.
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Old Aug 7, 11, 12:08 pm
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Originally Posted by WillCAD View Post
The PIT terminal maps are very schematic, so I don't know how difficult it might be to set up a dedicated departure lane from the international terminal to the non-sterile landside area, but somehoe I doubt that it would be impossible. It's just dumb that they have it set up so that nobody can exit the international arrivals area without being screened.
It's somewhat difficult because the international arrivals hall is on the mezzanine level between the central part of the terminal and the lower level which has the tram to take you to the landside terminal. Once you get to the landside terminal you are still in the secure area. It's kind of like DEN where the main security checkpoint is before you enter the tram. At the time the airport was built, it was a hub for US, so it made sense. Most people were connecting passengers, and the few whose final destination was PIT didn't object to the security procedures at the time. (Before TSA, liquids, shoes, NoS, etc...)

The only way to do it would be to have the "You are now leaving the secured area" signs as you go down the escalators and partitioning the trams such that they drop you off in a non-sterile area. Moving the whole security operation into the central area would be a madhouse though, and it would eliminate the alternate security checkpoint where the former Concourse E used to be.

OP, great job of "opting out". Do you want to fly today? No, I just want to get to my car!

Also, it looks like the screening area after CBP doesn't have a NoS. Is that correct? There are probably so few passengers that it isn't worth it to install one.
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Old Aug 7, 11, 12:13 pm
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yes, thanks for posting, and for sticking to your guns... you shouldn't be searched getting OFF a plane, or a train for that matter..
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Old Aug 7, 11, 12:17 pm
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Let me get this straight: At those airports you have to go through TSA, even if you're not connecting and just want to go to the parking garage? What's the point? And similarly, why the production to throw you out? Why can't you just walk out the door once you're through customs? Why would they even care except that they want the satisfaction of making you submit?
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Old Aug 7, 11, 12:28 pm
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Originally Posted by cottonmather0 View Post
Let me get this straight: At those airports you have to go through TSA, even if you're not connecting and just want to go to the parking garage? What's the point? And similarly, why the production to throw you out? Why can't you just walk out the door once you're through customs? Why would they even care except that they want the satisfaction of making you submit?
You didn't read the post. The setup in PIT is such that when you exit immigration formalities, you are still inside the sterile zone. There is no practical way, given the architecture, to send arriving intl. pax directly to non-sterile area, e.g., the exit.

Reverse is at IAD where those arriving on UA intl., generally go through mid-field arrivals, immigration, TSA and then back into the sterile area. Those whose final destination is IAD, go to Main terminal, through immigration and are then in non-sterile area (domestic baggage claim and then street).

BTW - All OP managed to do here is not teach anybody a lesson, just cost taxpayers (you & I) more money.
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Old Aug 7, 11, 12:29 pm
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Originally Posted by cottonmather0 View Post
Let me get this straight: At those airports you have to go through TSA, even if you're not connecting and just want to go to the parking garage? What's the point?
That's correct. The problem is the design of the terminals is such that the CBP FIS is airside. It is a byproduct of a bad terminal design, but it was from an era many years ago when all of those airports were hubs and most of the passengers were connecting anyway. Now at PIT 100% of the passengers on the DL flight are at their final destination. I imagine MEM and CVG still have some connecting traffic, but the only airport of the four where a vast majority of the travelers are still connecting would be ATL.
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Old Aug 7, 11, 12:41 pm
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Originally Posted by cottonmather0 View Post
Let me get this straight: At those airports you have to go through TSA, even if you're not connecting and just want to go to the parking garage? What's the point? And similarly, why the production to throw you out? Why can't you just walk out the door once you're through customs? Why would they even care except that they want the satisfaction of making you submit?
This is an artifact of the architectural layouts at several airports, which were not designed well with respect to the United States' rather [ahem] "unique" approach to screening in-bound international flights.

At most US airports, once you've collected your baggage and transited Customs, you're now completely outside of the sterile area. So, you visit the airline counter (sometimes conveniently in the customs area) to recheck your bags, then wander over to the TSA checkpoint and get re-screened along with all the local folks in order to re-enter the sterile area. On the other hand, if this airport was your final destination, you're free to simply take your bags and walk out the door and find your ground transportation away from the airport.

At a small number of US airports, though, the only exit from Customs is onto the sterile concourse. TSA sets up a checkpoint at that exit. For connecting passengers, this is fine, since they were going to have to go through a TSA checkpoint anyways. But if that airport is your final destination, it's a bit absurd.

Most passengers probably go ahead and submit to TSA screening in order to enter the sterile concourse and walk the couple hundred feet to leave the concourse and head out the door. But, as the OP points out, it's technically not required. (TSA can hardly threaten you with "DYW2FT" if, in fact, you don't want to fly anymore that day ...). Of course, this leaves the passenger in a no-man's land.

The "solution", as described by the OP, is for the passenger to be escorted through the sterile area. But, as also described by the OP, that solution is often time-consuming. Most passengers probably give in for the convenience of getting out the door.
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Old Aug 7, 11, 12:45 pm
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Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
BTW - All OP managed to do here is not teach anybody a lesson, just cost taxpayers (you & I) more money.
No, I think the OP did a great job standing up for himself and if I ever find myself in a similar situation (which is unlikely given my home airports), I'll do the exact same thing. If TSA has a problem with international passengers arriving on the sterile side of the airport, then it's TSA's and the airport operators joint problem to clean up and not my responsibility to submit myself to an invasive search from the Keystone Kops. If I'm in my home country and not getting on an airplane, and not under arrest by an actual LEO, I have a right to travel freely and go home, regardless of where I am. I give enormous credit to the OP for asserting himself. As I have said many times on this board, it's not necessarily about "teaching them a lesson" or "winning", it's about asserting your rights and not letting them be incrementally taken away by a bunch of clerks who find it more convenient to do it that way than to follow the Constitution.

And, as we can learn from all three stories discussed here, EVERYONE INVOLVED (cops, TSO's, supervisors, whoever) eventually admit that they cannot force people to submit to a search or detain them in these circumstances. So what's clearly going on here is that it's more convenient/cheaper to just submit people to searches and rather than contemplate the legality of it, the powers that be just presume that most Americans will willingly roll over and let it happen and hope to intimidate the rest who resist. I guran-damn-tee you that if more people resisted like the OP did, TSA and the airport would fix the situation in some way and standardize what happens in this circumstance. But, because so many Americans just don't care and think it's "kooky" to not go along with this nonsense, the thugs can get away with it.

Originally Posted by Majuki View Post
That's correct. The problem is the design of the terminals is such that the CBP FIS is airside. It is a byproduct of a bad terminal design, but it was from an era many years ago when all of those airports were hubs and most of the passengers were connecting anyway. Now at PIT 100% of the passengers on the DL flight are at their final destination. I imagine MEM and CVG still have some connecting traffic, but the only airport of the four where a vast majority of the travelers are still connecting would be ATL.
Yeah, I figured that out after a few clicks and reading some more. Nonetheless, like I said above, that's TSA's problem to fix, not mine for not wanting to be searched for no reason. Let people exit via a secure tram, dig a tunnel to the parking lot, have Scotty beam them out, but hell no, it shouldn't be considered to be "standard" to be submitted to a search just to exit the airport. Even if it's only incrementally moved into place, that's still a boot on the face.
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Old Aug 7, 11, 12:58 pm
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Add MCO to your list of airports with this ridiculous layout. Come on, how hard is it to make some sort of connection for people walking out to simply walk out?
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Old Aug 7, 11, 1:08 pm
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Originally Posted by cottonmather0 View Post
No, I think the OP did a great job standing up for himself and if I ever find myself in a similar situation (which is unlikely given my home airports), I'll do the exact same thing.....
^^^^ times a frikin bazillion.


originally posted by Often1
BTW - All OP managed to do here is not teach anybody a lesson, just cost taxpayers (you & I) more money.
what a crock. demanding an escort out 'wastes our money'. great. what do you call the whole d*mn TSA strip search charade in which the machines are simply not capable of detecting certain things placed in certain ways on the body? and VIPR teams that randomly hit one venue out of a million to no real effect other than ransacking through pax underwear in their luggage? That's not a waste?

yet asserting your right NOT to be strip searched or have your b*lls racked by a government agent, now, THAT's a waste. Truly.

SPARE US!
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Old Aug 7, 11, 1:14 pm
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Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
BTW - All OP managed to do here is not teach anybody a lesson, just cost taxpayers (you & I) more money.
I disagree. The police and TSA are at fault here, not the OP. The OP is not responsible for the TSA and police training, and the OP is not responsible for the terminal layout. All the OP did was to stand his ground when his rights were threatened. There's nothing wrong about that.

The police and TSA should have rapidly recognized that any action other than releasing the OP is unlawful. The police and TSA cost the taxpayer's money, because they did not perform their duty swiftly. Instead, they dallied, argued, negotiated, and finally had to give in.
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Old Aug 7, 11, 1:20 pm
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Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
BTW - All OP managed to do here is not teach anybody a lesson, just cost taxpayers (you & I) more money.
I didn't realize that if we assert our rights and call authority out on their rules that we a) need to teach someone a lesson and b) not cost the taxpayers money. Or is it allowed to cost tax dollars if it teaches a lesson? And who is to say that a lesson wasn't learned by that particular group of TSA employees?

Well, this taxpayer is going to cost us both some more money in October when I return from CDG. I refuse to go through a screening that I'm in no way, shape or form required to submit. I do not have a connecting flight and I'm not going to be manhandled and molested as usual by the TSA for simply wanting to go catch the shuttle to my car. The TSA or police can get off their duffs and escort me outside the screening area. That is the service I believe my payment of my tax dollars and 9/11 air ticket fees provides me. If you want to voluntarily submit to a search, hey, it's your tax dollars. My tax dollars say I'd just as soon have them just provide the escort to the landside instead of being lazy jerks.

ETA: I am not giving up either my French wine or my gin from The Netherlands. Since I am not flying again, this shouldn't have been a problem. But if required to undergo an unnecessary screening, they'll be taking my liquids away, won't they? I don't think so. Just give me my escort out because I'm not throwing away my souvenirs.

Last edited by NotaCriminal; Aug 7, 11 at 2:16 pm
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Old Aug 7, 11, 1:25 pm
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Originally Posted by Often1 View Post
BTW - All OP managed to do here is not teach anybody a lesson, just cost taxpayers (you & I) more money.
Well, heck, let's stop paying TSOs to stand and block out-of-service WTMDs. That might save enough to offset the cost of escorting arriving pax directly out of the terminal.

Running them through security is a waste of my taxpayer's dollars (because you can easily have half a plane load of people going through this farce). It's also unnecessary work for the screeners and gropers (unless they've developed a taste for 'surrendered' duty free goods).
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