Bad Systems: TSA at DFW Terminal A
I’m going to try to tie this into Lean, or so I think. I had the most mind-numbing experience at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (my home airport, Terminal A, near gate A35, last Monday night (Labor Day).
As I approached the private “security” worker at the podium before the screening, I was starting to hand her my boarding pass and ID, as I’ve done far too many times this year at different airports, it’s always the same drill. You know, they take your boarding pass and scribble five times on it or play a game of Sudoku on it before letting you pass on. This time, the contractor didn’t want any of that, she just mumbled something about “mmmbmbmbm laptop…. mmmmbmbm… belt.” I know the drill.
I got a few steps closer to the TSA and it hit me — she hadn’t checked my ID and boarding pass. I told the TSA employee this, thinking there was maybe some security threat from the laxness, and the TSA guy mumbled something about “what do you expect?” and took only the most cursory glance at my ID and boarding pass.
At this point, I thought I could A) just move on and not risk saying something that would get me strip searched or arrested or B) say something. Having plenty of time before my flight, I chose door B, I asked to talk to a supervisor. I explained what had happened, basically that NOBODY had checked my ID. The supervisor told me that TSA and/or the airport had officially deemed the contractors to be ineffective at checking ID’s, since boarding passes and ID’s are too easy to fake and the contractors didn’t know what they were looking for. Nice huh? And this isn’t the case at other airports?
I guessing that the problem with the contractors might be at least partially a training issue.
The TSA supervisor said they were in the process of “phasing in” the new approach, where the TSA employees would now be checking ID’s at that terminal, rather than the contractors. “Um, shouldn’t you transition in before the contractors transition out?,” I asked the supervisor. He didn’t really have anything constructive to say, other than apologizing, so I didn’t push the discussion any more. That’s just horrible management and system design (or lack thereof). You don’t pull the old person off the job before the new process and training are in place. Our government in action. Or, government inaction.
In part 2 of this post, I’ll describe my phone call to the TSA asking about this situation and their response.