Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Don Quixote Tilts His Windmill: TSA Part II

I have deviated from my original intention for this blog with a few non-faith and non-inspirational posts lately. I plan for today's post to be the last of these deviations for a while.

Regular readers may remember a post (rant) back in January concerning my being listed on the TSA Watch List, and my attempts to be removed from the list. Over a year ago, I found out my name had been added to the TSA Watch List which makes flying a royal pain in the posterior. At the time of the post I had just mailed a select distribution list an intense letter venting my concerns and frustrations about the List. I sent the letter to the TSA Ombudsman, TN Senators, TN Congresspersons, the White House, and Vice President Cheney. I received no response from the following: TSA Ombudsman, TN Congresspersons outside of my district, the White House, and the Vice President.

I did receive a response from the offices of my direct congressperson and the offices of Senator Lamar Alexander and Senator Bill Frist. Each requested additional info in order to help me. The Senators had someone call me directly from their offices. The first to respond was Ms. Jackson from Senator Alexander's Nashville office. She was polite and patient and seemed genuinely concerned about resolving the issue.

I provided the background and additional information she requested. In mid-February, I received a letter from the TSA stating that they had re-evaluated my records and decided a correction was warranted. I received this letter from Senator Alexander a few weeks later along with a copy of the TSA's letter to me:
Dear Anthony,

The Transportation Security Administration has responded to my inquiry on your behalf, and I have enclosed a copy of the response for your review. If you need any additional information, please call [Ms.] Jackson at [xxx-xxx-xxxx]. I hope my office was able to provide some assistance in this matter, but please don't hesitate to get in touch with me if you have any further concerns.


Despite the positive response, I was skeptical. The TSA letter contained this wonderful little caveat:
TSA cannot ensure that your travel will always be delay free as this redress process does not affect other standard screening procedures in place at the security checkpoint. For example, an individual may be selected by TSA for enhanced screening in order to resolve a walk-through metal detector alarm, because of random selection, or based on certain non-identity based factors reflected in reservation information. Additionally this process may not eliminate the need to go to the ticket counter in order to obtain a boarding pass.

This last statement in bold was the main problem I was attempting to solve. It was that part of the process that made flying, especially on Southwest, cumbersome. In addition, it was that part of Homeland Security that was undermining the millions of dollars spent by the airlines to unclog the check-in process via kiosks and on-line boarding passes. (BTW, Southwest's recent announcement that they are seriously evaluating a move toward seat assignments is their attempt to solve the problem that the TSA has created for their customers).

Based on this caveat, I did not immediately respond with thanks to the Senator's office nor post my results here. I wanted to see if I was truly free of the tyranny of the TSA based on the results of my next flight.

Several weeks ago I had my first flight since the TSA redress, and it was on Southwest. In an even better test of the resolution, I was riding to my destination with someone already driving and booking a one-way ticket back. In today's security laden environment, one-way tickets are to be avoided if possible--a true red flag.

The great news is that I was able to print my boarding pass 24 hours in advance using on-line access at my hotel. Further, I had no problems with security at the airport despite forgetting to remove my laptop and having to have my carry-on personally inspected (way to go dumb-dumb).

Funny thing is that my security issue seems resolved, but on this one-way, direct flight Southwest lost my check-in bag. Southwest has never lost anything of mine before. I was irritated at first, but upon quick reflection, I didn't care. This Don Quixote was celebrating the slaying of his first windmill!

P.S. Use your Senators and Congressperson. They are in office to serve and the system does work, although not always efficiently. I am proud that Senator Alexander is a Tennessean and Vanderbilt alumnus. I voted for him in every election for any office, and I will continue to do so. Here is the thank you letter I just sent to Sen. Alexander:
Dear Senator Alexander,

I am writing to express my sincere appreciation for your help in resolving my listing on the TSA watch list. Please also accept my apologies for the delay in thanking you as the TSA responded positively in March. ... I decided to wait until I flew again to determine the exact nature of the TSA's re-evaluation.

To my great relief I was able to print my boarding pass electronically. Moreover, this particular business trip was a one-way flight and I assume under tighter scrutiny in the system. I am also grateful to [Ms.] Jackson in your Nashville office for her diligence and attention. I have thanked her personally, but wanted you to be aware of her attention to your constituents. Again, thank you for your personal attention in this matter and also for all the service you provide to our great state of Tennessee and to our nation.


jettybetty said...

Glad you can fly again!
I hear AA has come great flights out of BNA ;-)!

The only time we bought one way tickets, PH, Aggie-ed and I were all SSSS--way fun!

Tony Arnold said...

Come see us again JB. We will have to arrange a dinner with JMG too.

Malia said...

and me!

that's so great Tony, hopefully the rest of your flying days will continue to be hassle-free

JMG said...

Hey, I'm all for some dinner!

It's nice to hear of a politician actually doing his job.

Justin said...

I thought you disavowed the republican party??

btw, does anyone know if the word verification is completely random, cause right now, mine says fckgvty, which, at first glance, I thought said (explitive) gravity. weird.

Tony Arnold said...

No Justin, just certain elements of the party. I have always been an independent by philosophy and republican by voting necessity. But I will find it harder to vote for certain republican candidates in the future. Lamar is not one of them. I would have voted for him even if he were democratic in the past because I have always respected him and his most of his viewpoints.

As far as your verification, that is weird. Looks like someone who doesn't like physics, well at least a very specific area of physics (gravity).


Phil said...

My verification is yxzdzpzl.

I think God is trying to tell me to catch some zzz's.

Purgatory Penman said...

We can all relate to your experiences. Isn't detainment the same as arrest if it is against your will? Can they legally do that?

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