Hate The Wait at Airport Security? A4A Wants To Hear About It.
The TSA’s struggle to shorten wait times at airport security checkpoints has already been well documented by the media. Airlines and airports have joined the chorus of complaints, saying that the long lines are not only frustrating for fliers, but they also disrupt flight schedules and airport operations.
Now, one of the industry’s biggest trade groups is trying to use social media to focus all this frustration.
Giving people a forum to complain
Airlines for America is behind a new site called iHateTheWait.com. The site encourages fliers to post photos of long security checkpoint lines on Instagram or Twitter and to tweet directly to the TSA’s customer service account (@AskTSA on Twitter) using the hashtag #iHateTheWait. Instagram photos and comments for iHateTheWait should be tagged with @TSA.
Why do this?
Virtually everyone who is involved in the air travel industry is already complaining about the long wait times. The TSA is not oblivious to this growing PR problem. The agency has taken some action by promising to hire and train new agents and take other steps, such as deploying more bomb-sniffing dogs to speed up the screening process. They also continue to push the PreCheck program, which offers an expedited screening process.
Despite taking these steps, it now appears that the agency will have to tangle with one of the world’s most powerful airline lobbying groups.
Obviously A4A, which represents most of the major airlines in the United States, does not fully trust that enough will be done to lower wait times. The iHateTheWait campaign was launched even after A4A released a statement saying that the TSA was moving in the right direction with its latest round of hires and operational changes.
On the surface, the purpose of the new campaign is to use social media to inform fliers about potential delays. But there is more to it than that. An A4A spokesperson explained that iHateTheWait is about "raising awareness of the issue and serving as crowd-sourced information."
The trade group added that it hopes the campaign will “help cut wait times for everyone who flies." Aside from the basic information sharing, the statements don’t really shed too much light on how the campaign will “cut wait times.”
Building momentum for change?
iHateTheWait could help organize all the complaints against the TSA in one place, instead of having people tweet or post about their missed flights and hour-long waits on their own accounts. Ideally, from the perspective of airlines and fliers, organizing tweets like this would leave a kind of virtual “paper trail” that lobbying groups could take to Congress as evidence of the need for serious change.
Airports like JFK and Atlanta, who have already hinted at plans to privatize their airport security, could also use the momentum from these social media complaints to justify actually kicking the TSA out and making such a change.
So, despite the statement that the goal of iHateTheWait is to “help improve efficiency by sharing your security line experience with the TSA,” the campaign may actually help to create a log of complaints that could be used to eventually make the TSA a thing of the past.
More by Josh Lew
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