The TSA’s New ‘Priority Concern’ Isn’t Security, it’s… Insufficient Airport Retail Shopping

So what new issue “has now been earmarked as a priority concern for action by TSA” under new TSA director Peter Neffenger?

The US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is increasingly looking at the growing issue of too much hand baggage placing extraordinary pressure on security lines and aircraft cabins, while US airport shopping is also being negatively impacted.

Long security lines mean passengers have less time to shop. Plus if people didn’t bring so much stuff through security and carry it onto planes, there’d be more room in the overhead bins for people to store retail purchases.

The TSA is concerned about aircraft overhead bin space, and “is now looking closely at this issue and whether there are more effective storage options than the current model, which is currently ’buckling under the strain’.”

After all, the TSA is better-positioned to innovate here than aircraft manufactures like Boeing or Airbus, or their customers like United or Delta. Oh, wait.

Many people forget that – long before US airlines were charging for checked bags – the reason passengers can only bring one carry on (and a personal item) onboard in the first place is the TSA.

Standard luggage allowance used to be 3 pieces — of which two could be carried on. The TSA limited carry ons to reduce throughput at the security checkpoint. And remember the baggage sizers on the x-ray machines?

As I’ve written before, when the TSA worries about things other than preventing dangerous weapons from boarding an aircraft they aren’t able to do as good a job detecting dangerous weapons that could board an aircraft. It’s no surprise that they fail to detect weapons 95% of the time.

TSA Agents in Charlotte Watch News of the TSA’s Failure to Detect Weapons and Bombs, Instead of Searching for Weapons and Bombs (HT: Toqueville)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Less carry-ons also results in more people forgetting to bring their headphones aboard, or being inconvenienced from bringing a magazine from home. Most merchandise sails at airports seems to be that sort of thing already.

  2. TSA cannot both serve public safety and join the endless social pressure to buy new stuff… If they’re taking items so people have to buy new stuff, they are stealing. Which doesn’t promote trust & cooperation. It promotes anger and people trying to skate around the rules. More people trying to cheat the rules = more snarled lines = more stupid fights like the apple butter lady = waste of everybody’s time with their nonsense. An honest, transparent system meant to treat people fairly is the only way TSA can work. If the retail shops are putting pressure on TSA, those retail shops need to be closed.

  3. Now I hate the TSA as much as you do, but to be fair, the claims of what the TSA is looking at are coming from the chief of the airport shopping association, as thats the ONLY person quoted in the article you link. He also points at the airlines for charging too much for checked bags:

    “Of course, if the airlines would do something about checked baggage fees [i.e. charge less-Ed] then people would be more likely to check their bags in rather than take them through the security line.”

  4. As with most things that lack any objective price/value discovery mechanism – TSA services are and will always be subject to the moment’s political circus which will allocate funds based on appearances and polls implications.

    If anyone had to send a package with life/death implications who would realistically trust the post office over fedex/ups? When going through “security” and you witness the disinterested, bored, mostly ignorant staff – does anyone really feel safer that they are on the job protecting us? Better to put real pressure on airlines to provide security and be responsible for such services than let them off the hook by outsourcing the gov who will never be held accountable for outcomes in a meaningful manner.

  5. TSA is not worried about what people buy at the airport they are there for security. People need to pay attention to what they are expected to follow and read the fine print.. Busses and trains are available as well.

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