Two weeks ago, I helped a reader locate the expedited security lines for first-class passengers at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. (Those lines recently moved to checkpoints 2 and 4 in the main terminal; she’d thought they’d disappeared.) The exchange,which appeared in the Travel section on July 3, elicited strong reaction from some readers upset that the Transportation Security Administration would give preferential treatment to first-class passengers.
No one likes to wait while others get a quick pass, but the TSA really isn’t to blame for that particular first-class perk. The airlines manage the lines leading to the TSA checkpoints at MSP, even reviewing tickets at those reserved for first-class ticketholders. TSA controls the checkpoints, the areas passengers enter after they present their ID and boarding pass to a TSA officer.
“I understand that first-class passengers get to board the plane sooner, get better food, more service, more legroom, etc., but that is because they have paid the airline more money for those privileges. But have they paid the TSA more money? By what authority [does TSA] discriminate between different classes of airline passengers?” read one e-mail that captures the tone of others.
“TSA screens everyone to the same standard, no matter what line they come through,” said TSA spokesman Carrie Harmon. She also explained that the screening process “starts even before passengers get to the airport, when each traveler is vetted against terrorist watch lists. Other layers of security include checked baggage screening, closed-circuit television monitoring, random gate checks, intelligence gathering and analysis, the use of federal air marshals and behavior detection officers and explosives-detection canine teams that move about the airport.”
Patrick Hogan of the Metropolitan Airports Commission offered this background: “Before the TSA was formed, the airlines also were in control of the security checkpoints and the companies that did the security screening did so under contract to the airlines. While the TSA now does the actual screening, the lines are still managed by the airlines.”