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Why I’m angry at the TSA — and you should be, too by Pauline Frommer

Picture this: When arriving at the Department of Motor Vehicles to renew your license, you find that there are two lines. The shorter one is for folks who paid more than $35,000 for their car, while the long line is for the rest of us.


Or how about this: You think you hear a burglar outside your home, so you call 911. At that point you find out that only folks who paid more than $800,000 to purchase their homes have the right to call 911. The rest of us must call 555, a new line set up for those with lower property values that’s staffed by fewer operators. “Please wait,” an electronic voice informs you as the rustling in your bushes intensifies. “An operator will be with you in 7 minutes.”

Sounds absurd, right? The government doesn’t tailor its programs based on how much money you paid to a third party. Sure, there are often different levels of schools and services in different communities, but government officials don’t base their behavior on cash you’ve paid to private enterprises.


Thankfully, the above scenarios are the stuff of fantasy. But the same sort of bizarre class system plays out at many airports nowadays. You head to the lines for security and right there, in black and white, are signs directing first- and business-class passengers one way, and everyone else toward a longer line.


You might think, upon seeing these two lines, that first-class passengers paid more to the government to enjoy this perk. Not so! They pay the same September 11 security fees — no more, no less — that those in economy class do. Sure, the airline is making more money off of their tickets — assuming they weren’t using frequent flier miles to upgrade or score a free seat — but why should the federal government care about that?


In fact, on a recent flight I took, United Airlines e-mailed me to say that for $39 extra, I, too, could bypass the longer security lines. Was any of that $39 going to the government? Nope. United is lining its pockets while the TSA does its dirty work.


And it is dirty work. I, for one, think that separate security lines are an extremely undemocratic policy. And I’m baffled as to why the feds are involved in this kind of blatant classism. Especially when there’s absolutely no benefit to the government.


What do you think? If you think this is a crazy system, post a comment here, and then pass along your thoughts to your U.S. Representative or Senator, or to the TSA directly. And if you think the current system is swell and dandy, then I’d be very curious to hear how you justify it.



  • You have a right to vent. ;-)

    I'm an active U.S. Patriot and will defend your rights with my last drop of blood.


       Mark Wisecarver

  • I never thought of it this way before. I always assumed the airlines paid the TSA. Since first class fliers and economy fliers pay the same, it seems a little unfair.

  • I can see your point, but think that you may be missing a few details to the picture.

    I am among those that frequently enjoy the shorter line at airport security.  Many of my colleagues are as well.  I estimate based on my experience that the majority of us in reality pay no more for our tickets than you do.  We are upgraded to the shorter line through "first class / business class" airfare, "medallion membership", etc because of our frequent travel habits.  

    I see it as a way for TSA saying, "we recognize that you do this ALOT and we know you are also statistically a low security risk".  I don't think classism has anything to do with it in reality.

  • Final Thought:

    Next time you are standing in the long line at the airport feeling jealous and a little angry at the members of the short line, instead you might try gloating and possibly even taking a little pitty on them.  

    "Those vagabonds travel SO much that they probably never see their families, poor suckers.  At least they get to stand in a short line at the airport...."

    Become a computer software consultant and you'll see what I mean ;-)

  • Thanks Mark...I think. Yes, we all have a right to "vent", but I don't know from your post whether you think the Feds should be giving special treatment to first class passengers.

  • I couldn't agree more. Once again it's an example of how wealthier people are given special treatment in our society.

    Thanks for speaking out on this "class" issue.

  • I understand your frustration but being a former platinum level flyer I spent about 125 days a year flying.  Most of the people in those quick lines are frequent flyers that have spent a lot of time in airports.  That's waiting in line after line after line day after day after day.  Most haven't paid any money to go through those lines but have paid in tedious long flights and many hours in an airport.  These are the people whose flights day after day pay for most of the airlines operational costs.  The airlines are simply expressing their gratitude to them.  Don't be so critical of them.  Many times I was accosted for going through those lines.  I never yelled back but thought to myself that if they had spent as much time in an airport as I had they would appreciate the small perks like that.

  • Your tax dollars at work.  Turn airport security over to a private concern and this nonsense would cease.  Leave it to the bureaucrats in government to screw things up.

  • I have encountered several occasion in airport whereby they have different queues for checking in; the first class or business class and then the economy class. I feel it is alright since they have paid more for the tickets. And furthermore, after the first or business class passengers checked in, they always opened up the queue to economy class passenger. And about the TSA, if they did the same as the checking in above, then I think it should be alright; meaning after they have checked the first or business class passengers, they will open up the same queue for the rest of the passengers.

  • Well, I do approve of speedier security lanes, but not in the way that it is currently. I believe that the TSA should manage a programme that would allow low-risk, frequent travellers, the right to enroll in a programme like NEXUS. NEXUS is a programme that in certain Canadian and American airports, you would be able to clear customs and immigration faster, through the use of a kiosk. This involves a background check and approval from the government, either the US or Canadian governments. There is also the Global Entry programme, which is at some airports. Global Entry also uses a kiosk.

    If we can do this for immigration, why can't we do this with clearing security at the airport? It's maddening I tell you!

  • Nice message..

    I agree with you...

  • Thank you for sharing this message....

  • nice post....

  • Just go in the shortest line and complain of confusion, dyslexia and near sightedness if they try to kick you out?

  • For those of us who travel frequently and the airports are our second home...those shorter lines save our sanity. Please don't be made. We deserve at least one break for having to travel so much.

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