What To Do When TSA Drops the Ball:

How to Handle a Tough Situation with an Officer from a TSA Insider

OMG, did that really just happen?

Did they just say that?

You’ve got to be kidding me!


And yet, there you stand.


The traveling public rightfully places a certain level of trust in those responsible for ensuring their safety. But what happens when that trust is violated?

It’s an unfortunate scenario, made worse by the reality that it only takes one or two bad apples to ruin the reputation of the other 55,000 professionals that work hard to make sure you get from Point A to Point B safely.

Fortunately, there are some things you can do.

Below are a few tips from a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Insider about what to do should you find yourself in a bad situation at an airport checkpoint.

Remain Calm

Traveling is stressful.

And then this just happened.

Take a deep breath and count to ten.

Gather Information

Record the facts while they are still fresh.

What? What exactly transpired?

Who? Who was involved? Who is the supervisor on-duty? Who else saw it happen?

Where? Where did it occur? Which airport? Which checkpoint?

When? When did it occur? What time, and what day?

In my years of experience with the agency, TSA has always taken the conduct of its employees very seriously and any details you can provide regarding the incident are helpful.

Simply reporting “A guy with brown hair said …” or “A lady with green earrings at airport ABC did …” doesn’t give a manager or TSA HQ much to work with.

Instead, providing details such as “At 1:30pm on September 3 at airport ABC, checkpoint A, Officer John Smith approached and stated …” will go a long way towards helping TSA look into the situation.

This can include reviewing closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage, interviewing other individuals, and speaking with the officer himself or herself to gather the facts of the matter.

Ask to Speak with a STSO

The Supervisory Transportation Security Officer, or STSO, is the first-level supervisor at every checkpoint. You could also ask to speak with a Transportation Security Manager (TSM), which is the next level up, but they may not be immediately available as they are oftentimes responsible for overseeing multiple checkpoints.

Let them know what happened, and how it made you feel.

Contact the TSA Contact Center

Alternatively, you can file a report with the TSA Contact Center online by visiting http://www.tsa.gov/contact.

While nearly 2 million people are screened each and every day, unprofessional behavior is never appropriate, and taking a moment to report it when encountered goes a long way towards ensuring a front-line worthy of the trust the traveling public places in it.

This article was prepared by a current TSA employee in their personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of the Transportation Security Administration, the Department of Homeland Security, or the United States government.