Missing flight due to secondary screening...

Old Nov 20, 04, 5:05 pm
  #1  
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Missing flight due to secondary screening...

My first post in this forum... please do not maul me too badly.

I recently had an experience of being selected for secondary screening, which took so long that I missed my flight. Additionally, my boarding pass was removed from my bag without my knowledge and not replaced, so when arriving at my departure gate, I was without boarding pass.

I will say the agent doing the secondary screening was very civil and did a good job of communicating what he was doing. I did not at all get the we-are-the-self-proclaimed-guardians-of-the-universe(aka USA) attitude.

This is the sequence of events:

1) At SEA, line for security was longest line I have ever seen. After waiting 25 minutes, I skipped ahead to the business class line.

2) I am very studious about preparing for search. When it's my turn at the x-ray, I have already removed my laptop, my jacket and placed all metal objects/electronics in my bag, as well as taking off my belt and shoes. I always do this without being asked, in an effort to speed things up.

3) It took another 5 minutes waiting for the x-ray machine.

4) Finally it was my turn for the metal detector. After walking through, I waited for another 10 minutes while agents seemed to mill around. While I waited, an agent asked for my boarding pass, which I instructed was in my travel wallet in my bag (I have never had secondary before, so was not aware it could be indicated). Apparently, she took out my boarding pass but I never saw this, and nor was my pass ever returned to me personally.

5) I was selected for secondary screening. I imagine most people know this rather extensive drill. Problem is, I sat in a chair for about 5 minutes just waiting for an agent to do "his thing".

6) Finally, I get my secondary, which is fine as secondary screenings go (I will refrain from getting into my opinions on civil rights, government etc.).

7) Then my bag needs to be searched. My flight is scheduled to close in 5 minutes, but this particular agent takes her time. She also removed an antique silver item (a family heirloom dating to 1692) and takes it somewhere without even asking me. This infuriated me, for fear of losing it for some ridiculous "security" reason; it has happened to me before in other places.

8) Finally, everything is done and I sprint to the gate (which is as far away as possible; just my luck ). While sprinting, I start getting my boarding pass out, but it's not there anymore! A minute later, I arrive at the gate, explain my situation, but am told I cannot get a new pass as I was selected for secondary screening. The flight is about to close; the gate agent will try to hold as long as she can.

9) I run back to security, and after talking to FOUR agents, I finally find my boarding pass, which is laying aimlessly on a table for anyone to steal, look at, take, whatever.

10) Run back to the gate, and my plane is already taxiing.

The next available flight (that I do not have to pay a fare upgrade for) leaves in 4.5 hours, so I am stuck. When I go to talk to the TSA (calmy, politely, more in a "did you know this happened to me") I am receivied by evasive and defensive agents, who seem more interested in passing me to their colleagues. The super even tried to blame me, saying I did not keep track of my boarding pass (despite fact I am not aware of TSA procedures, nor did I know they would actually remove my pass, and then not give it back to me).

The actual secondary screening of my own person was quite professional, and I have no complaints. I was really shocked by the lack of professionalism and sense of responsibility in regards to everything else, however. Especially the seeming total disregard for respecting flight schedules and the need to do things efficiently. I cannot believe that everybody makes their flight on time. And yes, I was at the airport 2 hours early having checked-in online.

My bags also did not arrive, because the TSA had to screen them. 5.5 hours is not enough??????

Have other people had this experience?
SchmeckFlyer is offline  
Old Nov 20, 04, 8:30 pm
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Originally Posted by SchmeckFlyer
-At SEA, line for waited 25 minutes.
-5 minutes waiting for the x-ray machine.
-Metal detector, waited for 10 minutes
-Secondary screening, sat in a chair for about 5 minutes
-Finally, I get my secondary, lets say 5 minutes
First I'm sorry you had a negative experience. Now, acording to your post it appears it took you about 50 minutes to get to and through the checkpoint. If 10 minutes are added for other delays that gives us an hour. TSA and many of the airlines suggest you arrive an hour and a half to two hours before your flight.

As for your other complaints I suggest you call or email the TSA Contact Center at 1-866-289-9673 or [email protected]
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Old Nov 20, 04, 8:50 pm
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Originally Posted by TSAMGR
First I'm sorry you had a negative experience. Now, acording to your post it appears it took you about 50 minutes to get to and through the checkpoint. If 10 minutes are added for other delays that gives us an hour. TSA and many of the airlines suggest you arrive an hour and a half to two hours before your flight.
Let me see if I can make it through this thread without mentioning SSSS ; oh wait, that is the title of the thread .

Ok; let's have an intelligent discussion on what is reasonable for checkpoint screening times. I know it is party line to say 1 hour before flight, 1.5 hours etc. But, assuming the airline computers are working (i.e. the person can check in normally) and the appropriate number of checkpoints are open, 1.5 hours is an extremely long amount of time. Take my situation -- I can print my boarding pass at home, skipping airline check-in entirely. I know the plane boards 30 minutes prior to flight. I like to get to the gate a few minutes before that so I can get my place in line, upgrades etc.

More than a twenty minute wait (which, thanks to Registered Traveller, I never have at DCA, and in fairness, rarely have at other airports) is extremely excessive. If there is more than a twenty minute wait then they need to open more lanes; bottom line. To make a paying airline passenger wait more than 20 minutes because of security (on more than a one-off basis) is excessive. This to me means I am at the security line an hour before flight time. I often have many minutes to kill after getting through security. I don't want to get there and have to waste any more time waiting.

Think of the net economic loss to GNP if every business traveller was at the airport 2 hours early for every flight... What unproductive wastes of time.
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Old Nov 20, 04, 9:52 pm
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Originally Posted by TSAMGR
First I'm sorry you had a negative experience. Now, acording to your post it appears it took you about 50 minutes to get to and through the checkpoint. If 10 minutes are added for other delays that gives us an hour. TSA and many of the airlines suggest you arrive an hour and a half to two hours before your flight.
That is for the whole process. Waiting at an airline counter can easily consume over a half an hour. 50 minutes in a TSA line is an abomination. It would be far faster if you didn't have SSSS, shoe carnival, and groping.
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Old Nov 20, 04, 10:16 pm
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Originally Posted by TSAMGR
First I'm sorry you had a negative experience. Now, acording to your post it appears it took you about 50 minutes to get to and through the checkpoint. If 10 minutes are added for other delays that gives us an hour. TSA and many of the airlines suggest you arrive an hour and a half to two hours before your flight.

As for your other complaints I suggest you call or email the TSA Contact Center at 1-866-289-9673 or [email protected]
Per the original message:

And yes, I was at the airport 2 hours early having checked-in online.
While I haven't been to SEA lately, I have heard there are problems there with long lines (last time was late last year, just making a connection).

I personally feel it shouldn't take 50 minutes to get to/through a checkpoint anywhere. This is debatable, but as AArlington points out in his intelligent discussion, wasted time at airports is often wasted time in productivity and thus money. I often go to the airport straight from the office and usually arrive one hour prior to my flight. Typically I am already checked in on-line and have carry-on only. If I cannot check-in online/have paper ticket, or Intl and must check luggage, I will usually go by the 90 minute rule at SDF.

If I had to arrive two hours early vs one every time, this would mean one less hour of productivity at the office. Multiply this by the thousands of business travelers that go from the office to the airport and we're looking at a large loss in time and productivity here.

Now, with respect to the OP's problems at SEA:

From what I understand, some airports, including SEA have serious problems with lines. It's disgusting it took you 50 minutes, even after cutting over to the business/elite line at SEA. From what I've seen in the press and heard from colleagues, I get the impression SEA TSA has had problems for awhile with long lines.

Please take a minute and send an email to the address TSAMGR provided. Advise them of your complaint, including the significant line wait time. Also write a letter to the airline customer service department, advise them of problematic lines at SEA & your experience -- and feel free to write the elected officials in Seattle. I believe it's important the elected officials in Seattle are aware of the problems at the airport and what visitors must endure.

I'm not sure why the TSA took and held your boarding pass, but it was wrong of them to lose it and not accept any blame. Be sure to include all details, including this in any correspondence. Also highlight the fact they took a valuable antique silver item out of your view during the screening process. It's your right (and TSA responsibility) to have your items within view during a secondary screening.

On the other side of the coin, there is the saying that .... happens, especially when traveling. There are things out of my control such as delays, cancellations, and yes, even lines longer than expected. I was in a security/outgoing passport control line at FCO for over an hour a few weeks ago; I can't control it, and I don't think the Italian officals care... but here in the states, I would like to think someone, somewhere, does care - and has the ability to make change; so please, at minimum, write the TSA Contact Center at TSAMGR suggests.

I wish you the best of luck and happy travels!

Best Regards,

SDF_Traveler
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Old Nov 20, 04, 10:26 pm
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Originally Posted by AArlington
Let me see if I can make it through this thread without mentioning SSSS ; oh wait, that is the title of the thread .
Had to bust my chops, didn't you. Yes it is about SSSS so I guess it is OK

Ok; let's have an intelligent discussion on what is reasonable for checkpoint screening times. I know it is party line to say 1 hour before flight, 1.5 hours etc. But, assuming the airline computers are working (i.e. the person can check in normally) and the appropriate number of checkpoints are open, 1.5 hours is an extremely long amount of time. Take my situation -- I can print my boarding pass at home, skipping airline check-in entirely. I know the plane boards 30 minutes prior to flight. I like to get to the gate a few minutes before that so I can get my place in line, upgrades etc.

More than a twenty minute wait (which, thanks to Registered Traveller, I never have at DCA, and in fairness, rarely have at other airports) is extremely excessive. If there is more than a twenty minute wait then they need to open more lanes; bottom line. To make a paying airline passenger wait more than 20 minutes because of security (on more than a one-off basis) is excessive. This to me means I am at the security line an hour before flight time. I often have many minutes to kill after getting through security. I don't want to get there and have to waste any more time waiting.

Think of the net economic loss to GNP if every business traveller was at the airport 2 hours early for every flight... What unproductive wastes of time.
I would say 10 minutes should be the max. Opening more lanes would be fine if there was enough screeners but normally there is not. There has be a certain amount of screeners per lane. Screeners need to be given breaks and meals (which are adjusted around peak times), then there is leave, injuries and sick calls.

We can not always plan for the lines. I have seen a short wait time one day and a longer wait time another day when there was less passengers with the screeners working just as hard. We can plan for the obvious and pad for the unexpected but they cut us to the point there isn't any breathing room. With a rush to hire part time screeners it has gotten better.
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Old Nov 20, 04, 10:29 pm
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Originally Posted by whirledtraveler
That is for the whole process. Waiting at an airline counter can easily consume over a half an hour. 50 minutes in a TSA line is an abomination. It would be far faster if you didn't have SSSS, shoe carnival, and groping.
I agree with you but I can't do much about it for the whole TSA.
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Old Nov 20, 04, 10:51 pm
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Originally Posted by SDF_Traveler
Per the original message:



While I haven't been to SEA lately, I have heard there are problems there with long lines (last time was late last year, just making a connection).
I apologize, I must have missed it.

I agree 50 minutes is way too long. Any wait time over 40 minutes has to have a notification made to TSA HQ. In my personal opinion 10 minutes should be the max but you do need to plan for the unexpected.

SchmeckFlyer, what day, time and checkpoint was it?
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Old Nov 20, 04, 11:10 pm
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Originally Posted by TSAMGR
I apologize, I must have missed it.

I agree 50 minutes is way too long. Any wait time over 40 minutes has to have a notification made to TSA HQ. In my personal opinion 10 minutes should be the max but you do need to plan for the unexpected.
How many lanes do checkpoints usually have in other airports around the nation? The largest checkpoint at my airport has 6 lanes but we rarely run with all of them open. Even if we stretch the staff and pull the leads to open lane 6 the wait times easily push over 10 minutes due to sheer numbers. An average day at my checkpoint is about 6,000 passengers coming through and days with 7,500 or more are pretty common as well. During special events or holidays the numbers can easily go over 10,000. Selectees and regular secondary checks normally don't hold up then line. We usually have enough space to take care of them and still keep the passengers moving through.
In this kind of situation the only way I can see to decrease the wait time is to add more lanes and more screeners. Of course then when people come through the slow times and see more people milling around the old "what a waste of my tax dollars" thing will come up again. I guess we can't win.
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Old Nov 20, 04, 11:10 pm
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From what I understand, some airports, including SEA have serious problems with lines. It's disgusting it took you 50 minutes, even after cutting over to the business/elite line at SEA. From what I've seen in the press and heard from colleagues, I get the impression SEA TSA has had problems for awhile with long lines.
My problem with the SEA elite lines is that these are the lines that they put older people in wheelchairs and who need assistance, etc, into. I've waited 20+ minutes while they carefully explain how to put their stuff into the xray, have them shuffle through the metal detector if they can, and so on. Makes the "elite" line often slower than the regular ones.
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Old Nov 20, 04, 11:32 pm
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To help shorten the lines at security checkpoints during upcoming holidays, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport will open a fourth security checkpoint on peak days at the entrance to Concourse C. It will be open from Friday, Nov. 19 to Monday, Nov. 29 and from Friday, Dec. 17 to Monday, Jan. 3.


http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/htm...csecurity.html
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Old Nov 21, 04, 12:26 am
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And, let's not forget that SEA is a shoe carnival airport
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Old Nov 21, 04, 6:42 am
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Originally Posted by TSAMGR
First I'm sorry you had a negative experience. Now, acording to your post it appears it took you about 50 minutes to get to and through the checkpoint. If 10 minutes are added for other delays that gives us an hour. TSA and many of the airlines suggest you arrive an hour and a half to two hours before your flight.

As for your other complaints I suggest you call or email the TSA Contact Center at 1-866-289-9673 or [email protected]
Having experienced long lines at SEA before, I did arrive just under 2 hours in advance. I had already checked in online, and was able to complete check-in quickly. I then had a quick chat with my brother and friend, and went ahead to security.

It actually took longer than 50 minutes, because I did not include in my original post times such as the actual secondary screening, waiting in line for the x-ray after I skipped to the business class line, waiting for my bag to be searched and so on. I redid the figures, and I figure from the time I joined the economy class line to the time I started sprinting to my gate was about 72 minutes. This does not include the time it took to go back to security to retrieve my boarding card, which ultimately is what caused me to miss my flight.

What annoyed me more than waiting was that my boarding card was removed without my knowing, and not given back to me (and the fact that agents seemed unwilling to admit fault; I genuinly was not upset, just making observations). I try to temper my complaints, because although I have my doubts/reservations about the whole security thing these days, most of the agents were cheerful and cooperative during my secondary screening. It was nice that he said, "I'm going to touch you in a sensitive place now" because I have been touched in sensitive places before my security personnel, but without warning...

I really think SEA is a zoo, and the lines and seeming chaos make African airports look like they have German efficiency experts running their show. Something should be done, because it not only costs the passengers money and time, but also the airlines who have to give seats to pax that could be given to other (paying) pax.
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Old Nov 21, 04, 6:44 am
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Originally Posted by TSAMGR
SchmeckFlyer, what day, time and checkpoint was it?
It was SEA for C/D concourse, the business class/elite line. October 1.
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Old Nov 21, 04, 11:26 am
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First lesson, which you have no doubt now taken to heart, is to keep your BP in your hand or pocket during the security process and NEVER surrender it (there is no reason for the TSA to take it from you).

SEA is an enigma. Once last month I was the only one in line at the C checkpoint ! Still got a random (make that punishment) secondary of course. At other times it has been up to 30 minutes, so I usually eyeball the line and if it looks excessive switch to the S terminal train and catch the Horizon bus back to C airside. It all depends on the time of day.
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