The TSA Proposed Screening Passengers After Landing… Why?

Filed Under: Security/TSA

POLITICO has the story of how the TSA wanted to introduce a program which would lead to passengers being screened on arrival rather than on departure at select airports. Obviously that sounds completely ridiculous on the surface. After all, what use is it to screen someone after they get off a plane?

But the idea is more creative than it sounds, and one of the rare attempts by the TSA to cut costs (after all, you have to leave room in your budget for randomizer apps which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars).

Here’s the plan which was proposed, which has since been shot down, per POLITICO:

TSA’s latest effort to make air travel more efficient would have let passengers board flights at some small airports without being screened for threats like guns or explosives. Supporters of the TSA plan say the risks would be limited: The smaller airports get relatively little air traffic, and the regional planes in question would be far smaller than the hijacked jumbo jets that crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. But lawmakers criticized the idea as an invitation for terrorists to bring bombs or other weapons on board — something they called an unacceptable risk. They expressed astonishment that the TSA would even propose such a strategy.

This would have been rolled out at somewhere between six and 22 airports, like Klamath Falls, Oregon. An airline is willing to launch service there, but the TSA needs to set up screening, which they’ve refused to do up until this point. Obviously this solution would help with that.

The idea was quickly shot down by congress, so you won’t be seeing these TSA-less airports anytime soon.

On one hand, I actually think this wouldn’t have been as crazy of a solution as it sounds like. The TSA misses 95% of weapons and explosives in screening tests anyway, so the end result wouldn’t be that different. 😉

My issue with the plan isn’t so much my concern of terrorists along the lines of 9/11, but rather just crazy people bringing guns or other weapons on planes. They don’t even have to have bad intentions, but I just don’t see it ending well if there’s not even basic screening beforehand.

The logistics seem equally puzzling — how will certain flights be screened on landing? This would considerably complicate logistics at major airports. We hear stories every so often of international flights accidentally being greeted as domestic flights on arrival, with passengers not going through immigration. Can you imagine if a flight with unscreened passengers wasn’t screened on arrival before they had connecting flights? Not that I’m concerned about safety, but they’d probably have to shut down the terminal and search everyone.


Bottom line

Given how miserably the TSA fails at their job anyway, I can’t imagine this system would be much worse. Furthermore, I commend the TSA for thinking outside the box. I think it’s probably true that these small regional flights aren’t much bait for terrorists, though at the same time I wouldn’t rule out an orchestrated attack where they go after several planes at once.

But bigger picture I think the value in screening goes beyond trying to prevent 9/11-style terrorism, and extends to stopping all the other crazy people out there.

What do you think — was the TSA’s idea to screen passengers on landing for flights out of smaller airports as crazy as it sounds?

(Tip of the hat to MJ On Travel)

  1. It’s not as radical as it sounds. New Zealand does this with non-jet aircraft already. I flew from Rotorua to Melbourne via Wellington and Christchurch a couple of years ago. At ROT people just walked right on the Dash-8. At WLG we went through normal security before boarding the 737 to CHC.

  2. The true purpose of this is not transportation security, but to screen for “contraband” without a warrant.

    It’s a disturbing example of ‘mission creep’ by the TSA and an example of why the agency should be demolished and reconstructed.

  3. @Michael,

    uh, what? If that’s what they wanted to do they can do it just as well when passengers are departing.

  4. Not a terrible idea. But no risk-averse politician is ever going to sign off on something like this (as was the case), even if it could make sense in certain situations.

  5. Biggest post of drivel.

    1. As you posted, the crazies make it to the gate all the time
    2. If “The TSA misses 95% of weapons and explosives in screening tests anyway” why have them at all? Besides (and not to defend the crappy job TSA does…and I fly weekly) but what constitutes the 95%?? The general is “weapons and explosives”. If they aren’t catching C-4 or the like, that’s a humongous problem. If they get a box cutter or knife thru…or even a 9mm, can any of those get thru the reinforced door to the cockpit? Procedures have been put into place such as to mitigate (not eliminate) someone attacking and getting into the cockpit, while the food cart in front of the door before heading to the toilet is stop-gap at best, it would probably be enough time to slam the door shut and the reinforced door, can stop small arms fire. Not to mention, the # of Rambos that would storm the guy(s) that had box cutters or knives (as the air marshals only exist to suck up premium seating, imo) I just don’t see all that much risk.

    3. Eventually most of TSA will be replaced with high quality machines we all walk thru (at major airports)…”sniffs” and images and those questionable persons will be pulled aside and given further scrutiny.

    Finally, if the goal is to avert an in-air disaster or to use a plane as a weapon/tool for further chaos/damage/etc, then scanning post-flight must have alternative reasons…plain and simple. Searching AFTER a plane lands give me zero increase in well-being and IF the reasons we are subjected to TSA screening hasn’t changed…it is idiotic. Ergo…alternative reasons.

  6. but smaller airports have LESS traffic .. instead of screening done at a small airport, we are now going to do it a HUB with lots of a traffic? wouldn’t this not only add to the lines, but also mess with the connect times?

  7. I still don’t understand why you need to be screened again right after you land from an international flight before boarding a connecting domestic flight. You were screened in the country you boarded on your flight to the US, you flew several hours and after landing in the US you wet through immigration and customs so you did not have any connection at all outside an already secured area. In many airports you go from customs to TSA screen directly to access the domestic terminal. It does not make any sense to me.

  8. It makes sense. I’ve already flown commercial to major airports without screening. When you take an Essential Air Service carrier, you rarely if ever encounter TSA or anything resembling that level of screening. When you arrive at your major airport destination, you arrive outside of the secure area (often at the general aviation FBO), so if you are connecting to another airline, you have to go through security there.

  9. Seems like there needs to be more local control with TSA there to oversee, train, and make minimum security recommendations. Airports want to be perceived as safe and, at least in the US, will do so. If Klamath Falls wants commercial air service then let them work with the airline and build a security presence. If airports are allowed to do this then they can tout how safe they are, we caught x number of guns last year. Let TSA be the regulatory service but let the airports govern themselves. If they have buy in from the airlines then the airport can levy security fees as needed to pay for the services. Or let Congress pay airports some portion of the security costs. Maybe I’m way too naive in my thoughts here…

  10. Well for connecting flights it would make sense, be there done that in Europe pre 911, not so sure if it involved passengers taking a direct flight.

  11. @Santastico because countries have different security standards. Some let everyone leave their shoes on, some don’t make you take your laptop out and screen it separately, etc. By forcing connecting passengers through a security screening, the TSA can ensure that all departing passengers have been through a screening process they are comfortable with.

  12. Bad idea. I think it’s an open invitation to nut jobs and terrorists and I sure wouldn’t want to be on a flight with no screening. And do we really need longer security lines at larger airports? As for the security re-check after re-entering the USA and connecting, I wouldn’t want that one eliminated either.

  13. This is done at Virgin Gorda Airport as well — for international flights going to the United States.

    Of course, the biggest aircraft used is a Cessna 402C, so it is a very minor risk.

  14. This already happens in the USA. Cape Air offers several flights within the USVI but also the mainland US, for example the Northeast. I’ve flown from White Plains (HPN) to Lebanon, NH a few times to see a friend who’s studying at Dartmouth.

    At HPN, they use a private terminal and thus there is no security at all. It’s a Cessna that seats 6-8 people so it’s really not a risk. Makes service to these small airports much easier.

    Worth noting on the return from LEB the flight is from the “normal” terminal (which has two benches in it’s tiny waiting area) and the flight to HPN doesn’t have to get screened whereas the flight to BOS does because at BOS you get dropped inside the sterile area.

  15. Wait for news that the TSA contracted an app to decide which airports and flights get the post-arrival security screening.

  16. It is an awful idea!

    Back in the late 90s I flew into PHX on regional jet, before transferring to a mainline service and we all had to be re-screened. So I can see how screening works on arrival, IF the departure airport has dodgy screening. Otherwise this is just more TSA nonsense.

  17. Lucky, you seem to be assuming that no TSA=no screening of any kind. They could still use standard metal detectors and a private company to run them – you know, just like they did pre-9/11. Too bad our politicians are idiots and cowards who can’t see the uselessness of the TSA.

  18. Ben, I have to disagree with you when it comes to the TSA. They are very professional and travelers are very ungrateful. With out they, air travel would be very dangerous. They do an amazing job and I salute every TSA agent!

  19. we always get screened ( carry on xrayed) an walk through metal det, on connections at NRT

  20. @JT: perhaps it’s because english is not my native language, but I still don’t get what Mark wants to tell us…

  21. General Aviation has no screening…and it works fine.

    TSA is useless and gets in the way of implementing proper security. If we’re ever able to get TSA out of the way, then we might be able to get actual security rather than security theater.

  22. “The logistics seem equally puzzling — how will certain flights be screened on landing?”

    Changi Airport does this all the time for (supposedly) random flights. They put the aircraft in one corner of the terminal and divert all passengers to a nearby security screening area.

  23. Santastico: you have access to checked luggage in US Customs, so in case you retrieved a weapon after landing, you have to be re-screened for your next flight.

  24. The point about an international flight arriving as a domestic makes me laugh and recall a moment when LHR T5 first opened. Was arriving T5 2 weeks after it opened on a BAflight from Libya. After waiting 30mins for a bus to take us to the terminal we eventually pulled up to domestic arrival gate. Few passengers such as myself were looking for the immigration and confused why we went straight to baggage reclaim. Couple of people asked some staff and once they realised they had a plane load from Libya without immigration they freaked out. Never seen so many staff and security appear from nowhere and so quickly. Rounded up, counted, recounted then bussed to appropriate arrival gate.

    Hahaha. Was a laugh. Imagine if we were not screened before boarding? Heads would roll..

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