Skip to Content

What’s Going on With the TSA?

In the golden age of air travel, airports were gateways to adventure, hubs that connect both people and places, imbued with a hint of magic. The excitement of getting in a steel tube that barrels through the sky through the clouds. Flying to new adventures and new places, connecting with friends or family—these are the joys of travel.

Yet, in recent times, that enchantment of travel is now one of frustration. And the culprit seems to be the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The airport experience, once a source of joy and anticipation, has transformed into a maze of confusion, thanks to poor communication, unclear guidelines, and rules that are either confusing, or arbitrary—at best.

Reasons Why the TSA is Failing

The Unsettling Ambivalence of the TSA

One of the primary sources of exasperation for modern travelers is the perplexing ambiguity surrounding TSA regulations. In an era where security is seemingly essential (and where we’ve been told to be afraid of so many unknown terrors), one would expect clear and concise guidelines to facilitate a smoother journey through the security checkpoints.

Unfortunately, what passengers encounter is a landscape of uncertainty, with rules that seem to change like the wind. The lack of clarity creates an atmosphere of frustration, turning the once-special airport experience into a daunting endeavor.

On a recent trip to Puerto Rico flying out of Newark International Airport, the TSA didn’t seem to care at all about the once-ubiquitous 100ml rule for liquids. In fact, we weren’t even required to take our electronics out of our carry-on bags when going through the TSA security.

And just today, actually, when flying out of JFK Airport’s Terminal 5 (on a JetBlue flight to Puerto Vallarta), the TSA security almost felt like a joke. First, there were the bomb-sniffing dogs that you have to walk through while they criss-cross around you in random pairs—all before even showing your identification.

Then, going through the TSA security scanners, TSA was more a joke than ever before. They (1) did not require us to take off our shoes, (2), did not require us to have liquids under 100ml or isolated in a single, clear plastic Ziploc bag, (3) did not make us remove electronics from the bag, and (4) did not even make us take off our sweaters, hoodies, or extra layers.

In fact, I tried to take my Apple Watch off of my wrist, and the TSA agent snapped back at me, “did I tell you you need to remove that?” before telling me to put it back on when going through the scanner.

The TSA is Bad at Communication

The frustration we all feel when at the airport mounts as passengers grapple with the consequences of the TSA’s communication breakdown. Travelers are often left in the dark, unaware of the reasoning behind certain security measures or the purpose of seemingly arbitrary rules.

This lack of transparency erodes the trust that should exist between the TSA and the flying public. Without a clear understanding of the rationale behind security protocols, passengers are left feeling like mere pawns in a game of chance.

That doesn’t make me feel good about the whole airport security process as a traveler in the bureaucratic cog, but it also doesn’t make me feel safe. If the TSA is tasked with keeping us safe in the skies, then why do their rules seem to be completely arbitrary and can change on the whim of whether or not the security line is long or if the TSA agent is just trying to get people through faster?

The Government’s Safety Guidelines Are Unclear

Another thorn in the side of the airport experience is the prevalence of unclear guidelines. What is allowed in carry-on luggage? What necessitates an additional security check?

These questions linger in the minds of travelers, with answers seemingly as elusive as the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The frustration peaks when seemingly harmless items are confiscated without a clear explanation, leaving passengers bewildered and disheartened.

The Diminished Magic of Traveling

Airports were once places where the excitement of exploration and the promise of adventure permeated the air. However, the current state of the TSA has cast a shadow over this magic.

Instead of feeling like part of a grand journey, passengers now find themselves navigating a bureaucratic maze, where the thrill of discovery is replaced by the anxiety of compliance.

And the confusing rules on compliance make it travel a lot less magical. It’s a game on whether or not I’ll have to take off my shoes. Do I even need to pay for TSA Pre-check to save time on taking my shoes on or off if TSA will just make an impulse decision on the day of my trip whether it’s required or not.

Listen: air travel is a modern marvel, an exciting part of life that’s more common than ever. As air travel becomes even more accessible (and hopefully affordable), we’re going to find ourselves in the skies even more. And airports are our way up into the sky, TSA being the gatekeeping agent to the world above.

Unfortunately, the TSA is contributing significantly to the erosion of the enchanting airport experience. To restore the joy and anticipation that once accompanied flying, there must be a concerted effort by the TSA to address the issues of poor communication, unclear guidelines, and arbitrary rules.

Only then can we reclaim the magic of airports and ensure that the experience of travel remains a special and cherished part of the human journey.