Seven Secrets Behind TSA Airport Checkpoints


The security line you're in is taking forever. Movement is at a pace that makes a snail look like Secretariat. So why can't the TSA staff this line with more officers, maybe by actually working with the airlines to figure out when there will be heavy traffic?

They do.

The TSA's Melendez cites LAX as a prime example. "We know that the international terminal is going to be incredibly busy late in the day because of all the flights going to Asia and Europe," he said. "So we know that we need our people there then, but we don't need them at 12 noon."

Now whether you believe they have enough staff at these busy times is another debate.

#4: All Bags are Screened Now

The TSA is adamant on this point: "We screen 100 percent of the bags," Melendez said.

#5: Yes, You Can Bring Handcuffs on Board Your Plane

Yes, the one-and-only Lady Gaga brought handcuffs through security at LAX last month. Why? I haven't a clue (but if she'd care to explain, I'm all ears). In any event, they are not a banned item. Says the TSA blog, "You can't do any real damage with a pair of handcuffs and if you really wanted to tie someone's hands behind their back, there are many other ways you could do it." Uh, okay.

#6: The Security Checkpoint Isn't the End of Security

Once you get your shoes back on, there are at least four more layers of security. One is random checks at the gate area. Yes, you could be pulled aside, asked to open your purse, or more. "We've never claimed to be 100 percent at the security check," Melendez said. "We just never have. I mean, things get through."

Plus, there are air marshals, though not on every flight, explosives-sniffing dogs, and, in some cockpits, armed pilots who have received training from the TSA.

#7: "Secure Flight" Requirements Go into Effect Nov. 1

Did you know the TSA requires that airlines have your date of birth, your gender, and your name "as it appears on your government ID" in airline reservation systems starting Nov. 1?

Maybe you know this, but are you aware that a lot of airlines want this information a few days before your departure date, or you may not fly? If you'll be traveling soon, check with your airline and make sure this info is there. Don't risk missing your flight.

Some of you may be wondering why I haven't even mentioned the TSA's biggest controversy: those body imaging scanner machines, which may be at or coming to an airport near you.

I'll bring you more on that shortly...

This work is the opinion of the columnist and does not reflect the opinion of ABC News.

Rick Seaney is one of the country's leading experts on airfare, giving interviews and analysis to news organizations that include ABC News, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, the Associated Press and Bloomberg. His website,, offers consumers free, new-generation software, combined with expert insider tips to find the best airline ticket deals.

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