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Airport Security Explained

Carol Sottili

Are you one of those airport security line grumblers? You know the type. "I can't believe we still have to take off our shoes. The floor is filthy. My feet are cold." Or "You've got to be kidding me about the size of my shampoo bottle. I paid $24 for that shampoo. I'm not throwing it out." Or "Why isn't this ID good enough? I don't drive."

The Transportation Security Administration, not known for sugarcoating the rules, is going all Mary Poppins on us. "Because I said so" has been replaced by a $1.3 million video campaign developed with the Ad Council, called "Why?: The Reasons Behind TSA Security," that patiently tries to explain the reasoning behind its rules.

The three videos, which are being shown at airports (you can also access them through the TSA web site), are narrated by a friendly looking, uniformed woman, Stephanie the Airport Screener, who starts by commiserating. "At TSA, we know many of you often wonder why we have so many rules. Rules that seem to slow down the security process just when you're in a hurry to get to your plane." But then she brings in the tough love, adding, "We'd like to explain the very important reasons why we do what we do. Because it's all designed with your safety in mind."

Yes, kids, it's for your own good. If we didn't love you, we wouldn't be so strict. This hurts me more than it hurts you. You have to admire that good-parent approach.

Back to the campaign. Each video covers one of three topics: ID, liquids and shoes. And here are the basic messages:

* You have to show ID because "it's critical to make sure those boarding the plane with you are really who they say they are."

* You can't carry on any more than three-ounces of liquids in a container because "liquid explosives are still a risk to aircraft." Scientists have determined that three ounces is the maximum size that doesn't pose a threat.

* You have to take your shoes off because "improvised explosive devices are the number one threat to aircraft" and "terrorists have concealed these items in shoes." TSA officers can tell if they've been tampered with by looking at them through the X-ray machine.

The info in the videos didn't break any new ground for me, but the TSA maintains that research shows that travelers are more willing to cooperate with airport security when they better understand the reasoning. My thoughts: Seems people always behave better when they feel as if they're playing on the same team. If it convinces grumblers to keep moving, and the security lines go faster, I'm for it. But for real information, such as no snowglobes in your carry-ons, the TSA Web site is still the place to go.

By Carol Sottili |  December 16, 2008; 2:01 PM ET  | Category:  Air Travel , Airports , Carol Sottili
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I bet there are plenty of questions the videos don't answer.

How come I can take on more than 3 ounces of dangerous liquid as long as I put it in a bottle labeled "saline solution"?

If more than 3 oz. of liquid is dangerous, why can I bring more than one 3 oz. bottle?

What's to stop 20 terrorist from buying tickets on the same flight and each bringing the maximum number of 3 oz. bottles?

Why are all these deadly liquids just tossed into a trash can at the security checkpoint? Aren't they dangerous there?

How come pilots don't have to take off their shoes if they're in uniform, but do have to take them off if they aren't?

Why does the flight crew have to go through security, but all other employees who have access to the plane don't?

What good is showing ID at security when I can can easily make up my own boarding pass that matches and ID and print it at home?

Posted by: Lalalu | December 16, 2008 6:08 PM

fr Lalalu:

>...What good is showing ID at security when I can can easily make up my own boarding pass that matches and ID and print it at home?

It's simple. It's so they know who you are. Do what I do. Comply with removing your shoes, take the laptop out of the bag, put the teddy bear on the belt AFTER telling your toddler that bear has to be Xrayed to make sure he's not sick.

In short, act like an adult. You GIVE respect to TSA, you will GET respect. Works every time for me!

Posted by: Alex511 | December 17, 2008 3:28 PM

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