Poll: 87% of Flyers Give TSA Airport Security Fair or Poor Rating

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By Jesse Sokolow on 5 October 2015
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The number of frequent flyers voicing dissatisfaction with security screenings at the nation’s airports in 2015 continues to rise. Roughly 9 out of 10 surveyed said that the Transportation Security Administration is doing a fair or poor job. That figure, 87%, is one percentage point higher than last year’s and two percentage points higher than the year before.

The findings are from a survey conducted by Frequent Business Traveler from August 21 through September 24, 2015 in partnership with FlyerTalk, the world’s largest online travel community, and ExpertFlyer, a leading air travel information tool, we asked 2,129 flyers to rate their recent security checkpoint experiences.

The responses show that the typical frequent flyer thinks that the TSA is doing a fair or poor job, while only 10.2% think it is doing a good job, and a smaller percentage, 2.6%, think it is doing an excellent job. A staggering 71.9% said that they think the TSA is either not effective, or not too effective, at preventing acts of terrorism on an aircraft, while only 5.5% said that they thought that it was very effective, and 1.9% said it was extremely effective.

For the first time since Frequent Business Traveler began tracking traveler satisfaction with the TSA, the number of respondents who said that they were not satisfied with their most recent TSA experience rose. In the 2015 survey, 44.6% of participants said they were not satisfied with their most recent TSA experience, as compared to the 38.8% that said they were not satisfied last year. The rise was unprecedented, given that 2015 was the first time since the survey began in 2012 that the number of respondents unsatisfied with their most recent experience had risen, perhaps indicating rising complacency within the TSA ranks.

While the number of air passengers using the TSA’s PreCheck trusted traveler program continues to grow, the number of those reporting that they had used it in the 2015 survey declined slightly, although the change was statistically insignificant, dropping from 78.1% to 76.7%. TSA PreCheck affords shorter lines at dedicated PreCheck security checkpoints where passengers are allowed to keep their shoes on, and are not required to remove laptops and liquids from their carry-on bags. Travelers using PreCheck are generally more positive about their experience at the security checkpoints. In 2015, 10.1% were not satisfied with the experience, an increase over 2014 and 2013 where 6.6% and 4.8% indicated dissatisfaction with the process. The increase in dissatisfaction can, in some part, be attributed to the TSA’s policy of sending passengers who are not signed up for PreCheck into the PreCheck lines, as this makes the wait longer and these passengers’ lack of experience slows the entire process as they attempt to take off shoes, remove laptops, and take off light outerwear.

The poll and strong opinions relating to the TSA sparked a heated discussion in the checkpoints, borders, and policy-debate subforum on FlyerTalk, where it was clear that the TSA was not very well liked by the frequent flyer segment. Words such as “incapable” and “incompetent” were used more than once, and several commented that the TSA has “failed” in its mission calling the expenditures on the TSA a “waste of time and money.” One member, Dogdoc, went as far as to say that “Airport Security is, at best, a ‘feel good’ exercise for the public.”

FlyerTalk member sethb presented evidence that the TSA has become more effective, to wit (pun intended): “in 2015, they’ve discovered over half the times I’ve forgotten I had a bottle of water… in my backpack. In 2014, they found under half of them (once missing three of them).”

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