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TSA Will Continue Screening at Smaller Airports, with the Help of Dogs

Following recent reports that the TSA might cut back on passenger screening at smaller airports, the agency has declared it will, in fact, continue screening procedures after all. It could, however, expand the use of screening dogs in some airports.

As for the removal of screenings: “We’re not doing that. Real simple,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske told USA Today. “We looked at that and decided that was not an issue worth pursuing. Off the table.”

Pekoske told USA Today that TSA examined the option of closing checkpoints as a budgetary maneuver, but decided the risks weren’t worth any potential benefits.

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The idea involved removing TSA screening from airports served by planes seating up to 60 passengers. Travelers and luggage departing those airports would be screened if and when they connected through a larger airport. The change would have saved around $115 million, but internal documents acknowledged an increase in risk.

Needless to say, the idea was widely criticized for being dangerous, contrary to the TSA’s mission, and widely out of step with the agency’s typical approach to security. We’ll never know how seriously the TSA considered the idea, but this public response suggests someone heard the criticism, at least.

Four-Legged Security

One change you might see? More canine screenings. Pekoske said dogs are highly effective at sniffing out explosives and other substances, and travelers may see an increase in the use of canine screening.

He said that passengers who are screened by dogs are often put into the TSA PreCheck lane, but “we’re going to look at the potential of having a dedicated lane for canine-screened passengers. It would be a quicker lane than the standard lane.” He said the dogs have proven their ability to identify potential high-risk passengers, which would allow TSA to accelerate the process for travelers who don’t trigger a reaction from the dogs.

Readers, are you glad the TSA came to its senses on this idea? Or do you think it would be worthwhile to pull back the screening process a little?

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By Carl Unger

Contributing Editor Carl Unger believes that every trip is worth taking. He loves an extended trip to Europe as much as he enjoys exploring the towns and landscape near home. Basically, you'll find him wherever there is good food, fresh air, and plenty of stories to bring home.

Carl has been writing for SmarterTravel since 2005. His travel writing has also appeared on USA Today and the About.com Boston travel guide.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "It's not revolutionary, but a small Moleskine notebook is my one travel must-have. It's great for noting things you want to remember and it takes up hardly any space in your bag."

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: "Japan. I'd love to take a month off and visit the cities, temples, and countryside. I'm fascinated by the country's juxtaposition of ancient traditions and modern ambitions."

Travel Motto: “Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” –Terry Pratchett

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Window."

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