Poll: 85% of Frequent Flyers Give TSA Fair or Poor Rating

By Jeremy Del Nero on 2 October 2013
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Number of PreCheck Users Doubles, Overall Dissatisfaction Rate Down Slightly

PreCheck at John F. Kennedy's Terminal 8

PreCheck at John F. Kennedy’s Terminal 8

Frequent travelers in overwhelming numbers continue to be unhappy with the job that the Transportation Security Administration is doing and a clear consensus has developed among them that the screenings the agency performs at airport security checkpoints are ineffective, according to a recent survey conducted by Frequent Business Traveler magazine.

Eight-five percent of frequent flyers said that the TSA is doing either a fair or poor job of managing security screenings at the nation’s airports., while 66% said that the TSA’s screening procedures are not very effective in preventing acts of terrorism on an aircraft. Last year, the disapproval figure was slightly higher at 90%.

On a positive note, almost twice as many flyers are taking advantage of the TSA’s PreCheck program as did last year, and the high satisfaction rating with the trusted traveler program is likely to be the reason that overall dissatisfaction dropped by five percentage points.

The findings are from a survey conducted by Frequent Business Traveler and FlyerTalk, the world’s largest online travel community. A total of 2,415 readers took part in the survey.  The responses indicate that the typical frequent flyer continues to hold the TSA in fairly low regard and has a similar lack of confidence in the TSA’s overall effectiveness.  65.5% are of the opinion that the TSA’s screening procedures are either not effective or not too effective at preventing acts of terrorism on an aircraft, a figure that shows an improvement over last year’s 76.1%.

“This year’s survey results demonstrate that there is still much work to be done at America’s airport security checkpoints,” said Jonathan Spira, editorial director, Frequent Business Traveler.  “Many frequent flyers traverse security checkpoints on a weekly if not daily basis, and are in an excellent position to comment on how well the system works, making their verdict all the more meaningful.”

The poll topic stirred a contentious discussion on FlyerTalk forums.  Some Members defended their positive experiences while others strongly expressed their distaste for the administration.  One poster, Barnaby100, said that he had “a fabulous TSA experience in JFK – quick service, polite and sense of humour. [I was] through in minutes. [I] was really impressed.”

Another FlyerTalk member, jjmiller69, pointed out that his problem wasn’t that his experience with the TSA employees was negative in any way, but that the procedures they use are simply ineffective.  He reported that, on more than one occasion, he had “taken on banned items by mistake and not realized it until [he] unpacked. Not once has the TSA ever found them.”

With respect to overall satisfaction with their last TSA security experience, 44.7% stated they were not satisfied, although this is down from last year’s 56.4%.  A larger number, 25.7% – and up from last year’s 18.5% – said they were satisfied, very satisfied, or extremely satisfied with that experience.

At the same time, the number of frequent flyers using the TSA’s PreCheck trusted traveler lanes doubled, a statistic that is likely to play heavily into the perception of the agency’s effectiveness.

Frequent flyers want to get through security quickly and 45.9% of survey respondents reported that they had used the TSA PreCheck trusted traveler program’s dedicated security lanes, a figure that is nearly double from last year’s 26.3%.   The majority of PreCheck users, 80%, were satisfied on some level with the program.  This is up from last year’s 73%, which indicates that not only are more travelers participating in the program, but it’s becoming a more streamlined and enjoyable experience.  The increase in PreCheck users, who are generally happy with the service, could also be responsible for the TSA’s slightly higher approval rating.

Click here to continue to Page 2Detailed Survey Results, Charts, and Survey Methodology

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