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Passenger Advocates Would Help Those Treated ‘Inappropriately’ by TSA

by Ian Smith |

Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have introduced legislation that would create passenger advocates at the busiest airports in the country to be a go-to for passengers who feel they have been treated “inappropriately” by the TSA.

Schumer had called for the TSA to do this back in December after a series of incidents hit the news about the TSA intrusively screening elderly female passengers, but the agency thus far has not complied. This legislation comes in response to TSA’s apparent unwillingness to follow Schumer’s suggestion as well as ongoing concerns about “suggestive screenings of seniors and women.”

Some of these “suggestive screenings” no doubt include the woman who, in February, said that the TSA “thinks I’m cute.” And in January, two elderly women said they were strip searched by the TSA at JFK airport in New York.

The Senators think they have a solution for these continuing problems in their legislation.

“While passengers across the country have raised concerns over screening procedures, particularly women and the elderly, the TSA has yet to establish on site advocates for travelers to turn when they feel they have been or will be subjected to inappropriate or degrading screening procedures – that will all change with this bill,” said Schumer. “Our legislation will finally give voice to those who think they are being subjected to humiliating or inappropriate screening. This bill will ensure that passengers have a point of contact who they can turn to, on site and at the airport, when questions arise over proper screening procedures.”

Collins said, “We hear often of the inconsistent and illogical treatment of everything from cupcakes to medical devices by TSA personnel and inappropriate screening of elderly, young, or infirmed individuals.  My hope is that Passenger Advocates will help add some common sense to the screening process.”

The proposed bill is known as the “Restoring Integrity and Good-Heartedness in Traveler Screening Act” (the RIGHTS Act). If enacted as written, it would:

  • Require the TSA Ombudsman’s office to play a more proactive role in soliciting and recording complaints from the general public regarding screening practices at TSA by establishing a Passenger Advocate program.
  • Require every Category X airport to have at least one TSA Passenger Advocate on-duty at all times.
  • Mandate every Category X airport have clearly visible signage at each gate explaining that a TSA Passenger Advocate can be summoned if a passenger believes that a TSA employee has mistreated them on the basis of a medical condition, disability, age, race, color, religion, sex and national origin.
  • Establish best practices to resolve frequent public complaints and conduct training of TSA officers to resolve frequently occurring passenger complaints.
  • Resolve passenger complaints in real-time at designated airports.
  • And field advance notification calls from individuals with medical conditions or disabilities to pre-arrange for a screening process at the airport that ensures the safety of the flight without causing undue hardship for the disabled passenger.

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About the Author

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Ian Smith

Ian Smith is one of the founders of FedSmith.com. He writes about current topics that impact federal employees.

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