Pistole is the administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, and the customer satisfaction with his agency, according to a recent poll, is 38 percent, although some airline travelers may think that is on the high side.
The negative perception is 43 percent with respondents, according to The Wall Street Journal, mentioning a perception of “TSA incompetence and overstepping its authority.” Anybody who flies regularly has seen both, whether at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport or elsewhere.
Pistole says the TSA will ease up on elderly passengers. The Journal reported that, in New York, two female passengers in their 80s recently were required to drop their pants so screeners could check their medical devices and that a 4-year-old became hysterical for having to endure a full-body pat-down for hugging her grandmother before the grandmother had completely exited security.
When challenged, the screeners fall back on the repetitive invocation of “rules and procedures,” as if that excuses or explains anything.
After 10 years of this, the TSA should be building up a level of professionalism that gives screeners and their supervisors some discretion.
The TSA is going to streamline screening for people over 75 and children under 12. While this is overdue, it may also be too late.
The newest entrant in the radical Islamist terrorist field, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, is determined to bring down a U.S.-flagged aircraft. It has tried twice, through underwear and printer cartridges packed with explosives.
Unfortunately for the TSA, AQAP would have no scruples about using elderly women or young children to bring down an aircraft. The TSA faces that conundrum of terrorism: The screeners have to succeed every time, the terrorists only once.
Still, it is encouraging that Pistole is going to stress efficiency, professionalism, judgment and good manners. The passengers are stressed out, and the airlines are not helping matters by, for example, saying they will no longer guarantee that families will be seated together.
Pistole should also stress friendliness and good humor. It doesn’t always seem like it, but we are on the same side in this fight.
After 9/11, there was a faint sense that all this might be only temporary, but now we know this security will not be going away in any of our lifetimes. We can only hope it gets better.