I flew today afternoon from Boston to Chicago on United, my trusty airline with whom I have flown nearly every week to various cities in this country. This was a one way ticket to Chicago after a multi-city itinirary. I went to the United kiosk at Logan Airport, and printed out my boarding pass and on it was the mysterious legend 'SSSS'. I didn't give it any thought (there are several other mysterious things on the boarding pass). But I found out that I would be screened in a special way at the security line.
The girl right in front of me at the security line was also selected for this random screening. She had blonde hair, blue eyes and a happy smile, but these were now marred by a frown and she was now muttering under her breath, "this is just ridiculous". We both stood in line and after what seemed a long, long time (actually about 10 minutes) came up to the front when we were whisked away by TSA agents.
The TSA personnel are almost always friendly and the guys who patted me down and went through my incredibly jumbled laptop bag (with 4 different adaptors and cords, 1 iPod, 1 earphone, 2 Blackberrys, 1 highlighter, 2 permanent markers, several expense receipts, folders, presentations, mouth fresheners, 1 necktie and many, many other such paraphernalia) did so with patience, directing every now and then a question in my direction as to whether I was doing okay there- which I was.
On parting I was given time to rearrange my laptop bag, and I noticed that my boss who had accompanied me through the line was waiting outside with an expression of weariness on his face. I remarked to the TSA agent that if a person were selected for the pat down, he or she may as well be stepped up to the front of the security line to save him or her some time, as well as alleviate the chagrin that inevitably comes from the extra scrutiny. The agent replied, "well, maybe you should just come ahead of time." I let him know that I was indeed ahead of time, but I came early precisely to get through the checks early. It would be only fair to let these randomly selected patted down folks move ahead in the line. The agent let me know that he didn't have any control over such things (I doubt that he had any control over the random selection- which came out of the United kiosk, but I think he did have the authority to make the call on who should move ahead of the line).
I was also assigned a seat in the last row of the plane. If I'm giving you the impression that I was outraged by all this, the truth is far from it. I was in good humor throughout, and still am. But most people dislike being patted down- the airline could help them by giving them at least first dibs on an Economy Plus seat (with extra legroom) and the TSA by letting them move ahead of the security line. Given such freebies I think people would want to be patted down (I know I would:)).
This is not a rant on a blog site. I've been in touch with executives from United in the past for our company's business- I plan to email them about this. I will post any positive or negative responses right here.