Thursday, July 10, 2014

Airlines do not belong at TSA checkpoints

I was flying out of BOS today. With CO dba UA having left Terminal A, there was no line for security, and I received a very professional and quick pat down (they've dispensed with the "back of the hand" pre-speech, apparently).

But before I even got to security, I was met with a Delta gate agent. She needed to check the size of my carryon. It fit. But I asked her: who cares about this, Delta or the TSA? Her answer: Delta. My reply: then you have no business here. If a Delta (or other airline) employee asks to check your bag at a TSA security checkpoint: you should certainly refuse. You pay a fee for every ticket for the government to ensure a safe flight (what they actually do, of course, is a mystery, but it's good security theater). This should not be an opportunity for the airlines to maximize revenue by cowing you in to paying to check your bags.

Here's the thing: the airline's own employees don't like it. At the gate, I was asked again to check my bag. "But I already did this at security." They said yeah, can you do it again. I half-complained, half-joked "you know, they really have no business doing this at the checkpoint." The gate agents' eyes lit up. She had me repeat that for everyone else in the boarding area. "You're completely right! Will you tell Delta?" she said? "I'm already planning to Tweet this" I told them.

Then I asked for an exit row seat. I'm a taller person and while I fit in coach seats, it's not that pleasant. "We only have a middle" she said, but then asked me to wait. If the last first class passenger didn't check in, that seat was mine. Wow. I used to be a Silver elite, but that lapsed when I didn't travel enough last year (and Delta's killed the mileage run anyway with qualifying dollars, not good for a cheapskate like me who loves a low price to a faraway city—I've flown to ANC for three days for $400).

Unfortunately for me, a guy in a suit came running up to the podium about four minutes later and claimed his seat. Oh well, I said, and ambled down to row 39 and scrunched in to the seat there. But I learned a couple important things:

  • Gate agents like enforcing rules at security as much as you do. Which is "not very much."
  • Gate agents can do anything. If you become their friend, whole worlds open up to you.
So, my knees are a bit sore, but I have a smile on my face.