Skip to main content

While standing in line at the Transportation Security Administration que for flight security at my local airport, I noticed a curious thing.  If you pay, you don't wait.  

As usual I arrived early for my flight out to go through the ritual of undressing my feet, shuffling my laptop and emptying my pockets.  Even though my flight was sheduled to leave at 7:30 AM, I thought it would be prudent to arrive at the airport at 4:30 to leave enough time for this process.  It turned out to be a good guess.  The line stretched for some 400' as it routed back on itself twice.  There were two screeners checking IDs at the end of the line to disperse us into the security check equipment. After nearly 2 hours in this line, we came to the TSA screener who was looking at IDs and boarding passes.  Each screener was working two lines.  As we got closer to the screener, I noticed a curious thing about her station.  She was sharing time between two lines, but the other line (the line I was not in) was for first class passengers.  I looked back at my line to ensure it did not shrink - nope, some 400 people lined up behind me.  The first class line had about 10.  And worse, the screener would actually process more first class passengers at a time.  That is, she would spend time issuing through three or four first class for each coach passenger.  This means the line is not only shorter, but if you are in the longer line, you are treated as though there are four other lines shared with your screener. So, we asked, in the most polite way, how is it that we ended up waiting.    Her response - "guess you got in the wrong line"...      

So here we are in America after 911.  We are at war, regardless of whether we agree with it or not.  Everything changed after 911, right?  Well, perhaps not so much. For the most part, we were hard pressed to see any evidence of this new post 911 world and were pretty much asked not to notice.  But it all comes back the moment you arrive at the airport. You hear the grumblings of everyone in the line.  Many similiar to "wow, a few guys slipped through the net and now we all have to go through this.."  or some more understandably vitriolic variation on that basic theme.  

Yes, it does piss us off and rightfully so.  We want something to be done about it.  We want to fly safe and will do what it takes to make that happen.  We, for the most part, don't mind being treated like a criminal when we go through that line.  All we ask is that the system work.  We ask that the money we spend for this security is allocated wisely and fairly.  We are not sure if this system is the best it can be, but we will undergo it for the sake of our collective shared sense of sacrifice for being a nation under new rules after 911. This turns out to be our one common shared sense of sacrifice.  We would all go through the inconvenience and humiliation, equally.  Or so we thought.

You see, if you are willing to pay more, you can, in great American tradition, avoid those things that everyone else must endure.  This is pretty much the underlying plank of the Republican agenda.  Private schools for those who can afford it.  Private health care allow more choices for those with money.  Private security inside wealthy gated communities, etc., etc.  And when private money is not enough, well then, siphoning off the public funds to these private programs is just the next logical step for a country that values the more affluent.  School Vouchers are just one such example.  We all know the idea.  The more money you have, the less you have to share in or care about what everyone else must endure.  But this is the Federal Government.  This is the TSA!  This is an agency paid for by your taxes!!  So how would it be possible that the Federal Goverment would allow a system to give anyone the ability to cut in front of other taxpayers waiting at the security checkpoint?  By pointing the finger at the Airlines.

You see, the TSA says that they are responsible for everything EXCEPT the lines.  The airlines are responsible for those.  That's right.  The barriers and ropes and signs that say "First Class Passengers Only"  were put up by the airlines.  TSA, with a straight face, says they have nothing to do with that.  But try telling that to the screener with TSA on their shoulder who in addition to checking if your ID matches your face and your name on the boarding pass is also looking to see if you bought a first class ticket.  

Well, you might say, the airlines pay for the TSA.  Yes and no.  The airlines are required to pay the TSA the amount equal to the money they spent in 2000.  Yes, that is right, before 911.  Where does the other funding come from?  A charge of 2.50 per flight leg up to two connections from every ticket holder.  Futher, the TSA is administered under the DHS.  It says so right on their web site.  And we all know who pays for that.  

So now, the airlines are building elaborate lines for thier first class passengers.  In a Washington Post article "First-Class fast lane" posted on August 2nd, 2005, it describes $1 million dollars spent by a domestic carrier at LAX to reconfigure the security lines in part to accomodate a separate escalator to allow first class passengers to skip to the head of the screening line.  Of course it begs the question of how airlines that were teetering on the brink of bankruptcy can spend such money to cater to thier higher tier customers.  I am sure the two Federal bailouts of 5 billion dollars had no influence on this.  Oh, did we miss that part?  Yes, your tax dollars went to ensure that many of these unhealthy businesses stayed afloat after 911.  And what does the airline extend to you, it's coach customer for your investment in it's industry?  It's middle finger, pointing to the longer line......

Originally posted to grettadog on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 12:04 AM PST.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Message to TSA: terrorists can pay for 1st class (19+ / 0-)

    You gotta love it.

    Now, there actually are bad people who want to get on planes.  And if you want to get on that plane quickly,

    Why Not Fly In Style?

    Yet more evidence that it really isn't about national security.

    "If another country builds a better car, we buy it. If they make a better wine, we drink it. If they have better healthcare . . . what's our problem? "

    by mbayrob on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 12:13:54 AM PST

  •  Welcome to George W. Bush's America (3+ / 0-)

    His agenda is, and always has been, to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. What better place to exemplify the increasing class divide than at the airport security line.

    Here's a brain-buster for the TSA: what should they do if a man with dark skin or (gasp!) a turban ends up in the first-class line? Do they treat him like a first-class American passenger or a freedom-hating Islamofascist?

    (Of course, I'm not saying that the second option is in any way more preferable than the first, but the evidence is clear that the TSA engages in racial profiling.

    " A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people." - JFK

    by CrazyDrumGuy on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 12:53:15 AM PST

  •  TSA doesn't have a clue (7+ / 0-)

    My daughter and I were flying to Atlanta, she was shooting in the Olympic Trials for archery. She is very particular about training and her food. We had some packaged food with four blue plastic ice packs in a small carry-on bag. We weren't sure it would get through, but we thought we'd try since she didn't really want to eat airline peanuts or chips.

    TSA went through the bag, took some of the food and two of the blue plastic ice packs. What?!

    If the blue plastic ice packs could be dangerous, why take just two of them and not all four? And how did TSA decide which two of the four were dangerous?

    I agree with grettadog, "All we ask is that the system work." It doesn't. What a waste.

  •  The irony is that (4+ / 0-)

    if there is another terrorist attack, they won't use planes.  

    If thieves break into a house by smashing the front door, it's the height of stupidity to barricade that door and leave the back door open.  And that's exactly what we are doing.

    The road to nowhere never climbs - Strawbs

    by fallina7 on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 03:14:54 AM PST

  •  I have visited in the first class (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kurt, one pissed off democrat

    area on a plane and it was mostly empty, but that was ten years ago.

    I suppose another status symbol will be which line we stand in.

    My daughter said her friend told her that, in our city, you can get your electric bill paid if you stand in line. Only the first 50 get the freeby, number 51 and back are out of luck.  She said she takes a lawn chair and a good book.  I didn't think to ask her who was paying for this, my mind was filled with the vision of the line and lawn chairs.  

    Let's just hope this isn't what charity has been reduced to.  I can visualize nosy Hannity fans driving by to watch. They would consider that fun, especially if it is bitterly cold, wet and windy.

    I will find out more about it today.

  •  Who says (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    chigh, one pissed off democrat

    class doesn't matter before the law?  I also notice that much of the most reckless aggressive driving and speeding is done by people in late model expensive cars, but you never ever ever see them pulled over.  Law enforcement know who they work for, and it's not the working men and women of America, the state and its armed bodies are the enforcement arms of the ruling class.  The dictatorship of the bourgeoisie is real, alive, and gets stronger and more pronounced in daily life every day.

  •  I thought this was widely known by the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Road Warriors

    I have known for sometime that I could be a Registered Traveler and get through security faster, I have not seen the First Class only lines, that is too funny, how would the TSA know if your seat was first class or not?  Hell I would get int hat line anyway.  

    The Transportation Security Administration and private industry developed the Registered Traveler (RT) program to provide expedited security screening for passengers who volunteer to undergo a TSA-conducted security threat assessment (STA) in order to confirm that they do not pose or are not suspected of posing a threat to transportation or national security.
    Fingers being scanned

    The RT program is market-driven and offered by the private sector with TSA largely playing a facilitating role. TSA is responsible for setting program standards, conducting the STA, physical screening at TSA checkpoints, and certain forms of oversight. The private sector is responsible for enrollment, verification, and related services.

    To enroll, applicants voluntarily provide RT Sponsoring Entities (participating airports/air carriers) and Service Providers (a TSA-approved vendor chosen by a Sponsoring Entity to implement RT as its agent) with biographic and biometric data needed for TSA to conduct the STA and determine eligibility. The STA includes checking each applicant's identity against terrorist-related, law enforcement, and immigration databases that TSA maintains or uses. RT applicants who receive an approved STA result may become program participants.

    We need to talk with our wallets because no one is listening to our words

    by one pissed off democrat on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 04:53:15 AM PST

    •  The CLEAR Program (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Reepicheep, kurt, airmarc

      For $99 annually, you can be processed in most of the major airline hubs (Chicago the notable and painful exception - but Chicago's painful no matter what you do) separately from the main security line.  Your ID's, etc., are prescreened, so you can whisk right on through to the front of the line.

      I can well afford the $99 per year, but refuse to.  It's either about security or it is about money.  It's obvious from CLEAR, which went live about a year after 9-11, that it is about money.  And I refuse to support it, since to me that's supporting the blatant lie that all the new security nonsense is nothing but show -- since as someone points out, above, terrorists can afford to pay the extra fees in a way that many cannot.

      •  Doh (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Blogging before coffee=bad.

        What I meant to say is that paying fee supports the lie that all the security stuff is truly necessary for security, when it's obvious that the new security nonsense is nothing but show.

        •  It is amazing how much comfort the public (0+ / 0-)

          gets taking off their shoes when there are so many other "cleared" people scampering around the airports outside of the lines....

          "We freeze in the ice of our own conservatism, and the world congeals around us"

          by grettadog on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 08:25:29 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  I guess I really don't have a problem (0+ / 0-)

        with paying the money to the TSA to apply for a "speed pass" based upon pre-screened information.  But the current first class line customers are paying no more to the TSA than the coach passengers.  TSA gets their current budget from the 2.50 for each ticket, regardless of seating, and the airlines pay the pre 911 costs of the security they used to conduct (which was devoid of any preferred lines...) My biggest problem, and maybe I am just nuts, here, is that the Fed Govnt is letting the airlines tell them which passengers they want screened first based upon the amount of money the airline is getting paid.  The Govnt has no involvement with the service side of the airlines business.  And if they did, I would expect some additional payment to be made for that special treatment by someone. No?

        "We freeze in the ice of our own conservatism, and the world congeals around us"

        by grettadog on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 08:23:42 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  And this is different fromthe rest of the Corp (0+ / 0-)

          world directing the gov how?  I mane come on look at the war!

          these guys are in Charge!   Just ask them

          is that the Fed Govnt is letting the airlines tell them which passengers they want screened first based upon the amount of money the airline is getting paid.

          We need to talk with our wallets because no one is listening to our words

          by one pissed off democrat on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 11:54:05 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  They check the boarding pass (0+ / 0-)

      at the same time they check your ID before you get in the specific line, then steer you in the proper direction.

      To me, it's actually no different than paying more money at a sporting event for a better seat -- so are you going to bitch about the folks who pay $$$$ at a concert or game and get perks like beverage service at their seats instead of standing in line for an overpriced beer? It's just a question of free enterprise...if your time is more valuable than the extra money, you pay for the first class ticket (or you have your company do so).

      You're only as popular as the last diary/comment you posted. -- Zachpunk

      by Cali Scribe on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 05:28:09 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I would agree with you (0+ / 0-)

        if this were merely a question of long lines.  But all of this long-line, no-fly-list, take-your-shoes-off crap is supposed to be in place to protect planes from hijackers.  If that is really the case, then it makes no sense to have a system where you can pay more to deal with less security.  If it is not about protecting us from hijackers then why is it there at all?  Is it to give the illusion that actual steps are being taken in respose to terrorists?  Is it to impress on us a sense of being powerless and being watched?  Is it a veiled threat?  Are they warning us that speaking out against the Man will get us put us on The List?

        Or is it just stupidity, sticking with a system that doesn't work just because they don't want to admit that the system doesn't work?

        "YOPP!" --Horton Hears a Who

        by Reepicheep on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 06:52:46 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  It depends on the airport (0+ / 0-)

        how the routing is done.  I certainly have no problem with people paying for more to get more service.  But I do have a problem when the Fed government, who is not getting additional dollars for this treatment, steps in to assist a for profit business by providing services that taxpayers fund.  If the govnmt wants to set up a service where you pay the TSA for speedy service, I guess I could see that, even though it still smacks of the governt favoring the richer folks.  But at least we (the taxpayer) is getting something for it.  But there is no such charge of extra fees today.  You are being taxed to run this organization which is not collecting the extra fees for the special service that is extended.  Bottom line, everyone in any line (except for the pre screen line) is paying the same to the TSA for security.  I don't think the airlines should be able to direct who gets to stand in what line.  Hell, they had the security once and obviously screwed it up....

        "We freeze in the ice of our own conservatism, and the world congeals around us"

        by grettadog on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 08:32:32 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, I have heard of this program. (0+ / 0-)

      But it has to do with volunteering to be pre-screened.  I am not sure I would want to give all the information they ask for as it would be retained somewhere.  But, the first class line I am speakin of has no such restrictions.  It is purely for those who purchase the more expensive fare.

      "We freeze in the ice of our own conservatism, and the world congeals around us"

      by grettadog on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 08:17:53 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Not every airport (0+ / 0-)

    has an "express line" for first class passengers -- San Jose does not (at least not in Terminal C -- not sure about A), but I know McCarran (Las Vegas) does, and I think both SFO and O'Hare did when I flew to/from Chicago.

    I try and go first class when I can -- sometimes you can purchase the upgrade at the front counter if there's seats available, and it's typically cheaper than booking it ahead of time (by filling the first class seats, the airline frees up room for standbys in the main cabin). I appreciate the extra comfort, especially on a long flight, and there's a little more room usually between you and your seatmate so you're not on top of each other (I say "usually" because I had an older plane coming back from Chicago in August and we were pretty much sardine conditions even in 1st class).

    If you fly frequently though, many larger airports are participating in the CLEAR program -- for I think $99 a year you can get a special ID card that sends you into a special line that's rarely if ever in use that I've seen.

    Since not every airport has the first class line, I don't think you can stick this one at the feet of the TSA; the complaint should be with the individual airport, or perhaps with the local TSA to make sure that all the lines are adequately staffed at peak travel times. The TSA folks are just out there doing their jobs...yeah, it stinks that they have to be there but that's the way of the world post-9/11. (Hell, if Al Gore had been President we'd likely be seeing higher security at airports in the wake of the August PDB, but probably not to this extent and the Twin Towers would probably still be standing -- this isn't a conspiracy theory thing but rather acknowledging that Gore would not have ignored the obvious warnings...)

    You're only as popular as the last diary/comment you posted. -- Zachpunk

    by Cali Scribe on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 05:23:51 AM PST

    •  I used to be a Road Warrior (0+ / 0-)

      and many times took advantage of the first class services.  But I was paying the airline directly, in some way, for those extra perks.  And yes, each airport is set up differently, which begs the question of just how consistent the security program is, but that is a different question.  But the TSA is not getting any more money for the first class passengers they screen.  All in that line are paying the feds the same amount of money.  The airlines now supposedly have nothing to do with the process.  It used to be no problem to sail through security before 911, but now we have created these incredible lines that has added many hours to all of us as a direct consequence of that day.  We set up a Federal agency to do this screening.  A few more affluent people complain that they do not like the lines.  So the airlines now figure they can offer shortcuts through the TSA to increase their profits at the expense of the taxpayer, to say nothing of the frustration of the other people standing in the longer lines.

      "We freeze in the ice of our own conservatism, and the world congeals around us"

      by grettadog on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 08:40:38 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Not at all surprising, of course. (0+ / 0-)

    I guess no terrorist would ever figure out that they deal with less security in first class.  

    What I find interesting is that no matter how quickly the first-class passengers get through the line, the flight will still have to wait for all of the other slow-line passengers to board.  I guess the wait is easier when you are sitting and drinking a mimosa.  Still it reminds me of the drivers who speed along when their lane in obviously closed up ahead and they need to merge.  Then they hit the bottleneck and everybody who has already merged has to let them cut in line.  Ultimately we all wait the same amount of time.

    "YOPP!" --Horton Hears a Who

    by Reepicheep on Mon Nov 12, 2007 at 06:39:59 AM PST

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site