THIS Is Why TSA Employees Can Be So Rude & Irritating – Now It All Makes Sense!

by SharonKurheg

It’s rare to find a TSA agent who’s genuinely pleasant. Oh sure, you’ll encounter a bunch who are professional and who might even tell you to have a nice day. But they rarely give eye contact, short of when they’re comparing your face to the picture on your ID. And even fewer of them ever smile. OK, except maybe this guy (really, watch it – he’s awesome!)

You’ll also find a fair share of Transportation Safety Officers who are downright nasty. They yell at passengers. They’re impatient. They don’t explain things adequately. They have little compassion for people who don’t understand because of a language or comprehension barrier. There’s questioning if their sense of authority goes to their heads. And they’re as inconsistent as can be.

But I found something that totally explains why the TSA workers in that last paragraph act as they do. It makes perfect sense…

An audit was done of the Homeland Security Department and the report was released in March 2019. The 36-page (PDF) report highlights that (and I quote):

“TSA Needs To Improve Efforts to Retain, Hire, and Train Its Transportation Security Offers”

Here were some of the findings:

  • New hires are frequently only part-time employees (of the 9,600 officers TSA hired in fiscal 2017, more than two-thirds were employed part-time. TSA hires more part-timers on purpose, to help with schedule issues, but part-timers also tend to quit their jobs at TSA at a rate two to three times higher than full-time workers).
  • The TSA doesn’t screen candidates well, and has no procedures to rank candidates or to properly document notes on prospective employees.
  • The Auditors observed that the TSA has no standardized approach to train new hires, and doesn’t explain its expectations of employees when they start working (specifically mentioned was, “According to TSA officials at 2 of the 12 airports visited, lack of clearly understanding job expectations, such as pat-down procedures and shift schedules, has led to early attrition of new-hires.“)
  • Starting salary for a (full-time) TSA worker is about $39,000. TSA employees said that in some markets, they could earn more money than that at a retail store or sandwich shop.
  • The TSA has a history of not offering career growth opportunities and salary increases (this apparently has improved slightly since a new program, TSA Career Progression, was put into place in August 2018).
  • Apparently, the TSA’s new hires’ turnover rate is about 25%; 1 in 4 quit their position within 6 months of their hire date.
  • TSA doesn’t utilize the information gained from employee exit surveys (“We reviewed a summary of TSA’s exit survey results from 10,128 respondents from FYs 2012–17. The exit surveys identified common themes, most of which were corroborated by TSA airport officials during our interviews. These included dissatisfaction with career advancement opportunities and issues with management’s competence and communication.” The table on page 8 of the audit explains the most common responses from both part-time and full-time former employees)
  • The TSA also doesn’t have a process to quickly and efficiently fill vacant positions, relying instead on mandatory overtime. Mandatory OT = lower job satisfaction = higher turnover.

So the TSA workers you meet may be part-time, inappropriate for their job, inadequately prepared for their job, underpaid, forced with mandatory overtime, etc., etc., etc.

On top of that, it took forever for the TSA to adequately protect their workers from COVID-19 while on the job, to the point where someone had to be a whistleblower to get anything done. And even after that, they didn’t start installing acrylic shields at airports until early 2021.

And then we wonder why TSA workers are so crabby?

There may be SOME light at the end of the tunnel. The Biden Administration has ordered the TSA to expand union rights so TSOs could have collective bargaining rights. They’ve also been told to explore pay reform for its screeners. The two combined could help wipe the sourpusses off some TSOs’ faces. But there are still several other issues that will hopefully be addressed so more TSA officers can be at least, you know, pleasant.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


Luke Vader September 11, 2019 - 6:44 pm

Google “Family Guy – Meg Works at the Airport” for a great parody of the TSA

Why TSA Agents Are Rude, Guide to The Card Bay (GC Reselling), Amex 50K Point Upgrade Offer - Miles to Memories September 12, 2019 - 3:07 pm

[…] THIS Is Why TSA Employees Can Be So Rude & Irritating – Now It All Makes Sense! – Your Mileage May Vary […]

Diane Kathryn Kelly July 12, 2020 - 3:19 am

Does not explain why they are so rude just gives excuses for the WOMEN TSA agents rude behavior.

Chris Wegman January 5, 2021 - 11:46 pm

TSA agents can kiss my butt!! Most are just abusive and let the authority go to their heads. We would be fine if we shut these a-holes down. I do not think they have actually stopped a single terrorist attack. Only harass passengers.

DaninMCI February 21, 2021 - 9:31 am

It’s all theater. They would better off just putting in fake magical portals you walk through that claim to find bombs and stuff. It’s like putting up acrylic shields to stop Covid.

SharonKurheg February 21, 2021 - 1:56 pm

Considering how many guns they find on people every week, I disagree.

Grzegorz February 21, 2021 - 11:45 am

I am always coming with smile and maneers. Few times for my „good morning” or „hello” worker ignored it, sure. But then I just said „hey, sir, I just said good morning to you, are you sure you are here??” – it always works well. Anyway, if they are yelling, rude, or not polite, I am exactly the same like you. If they continue just simply „just do your job what you have paid for and comments leave for yourself, I don’t care about your opinion”. Depends how are they, they get feedback from customers. The thing is: they are for us, not we for them.

Christian February 21, 2021 - 3:27 pm

The system absolutely needs a revamp. It sounds like there’s been an awful lot of failures to the point where it’s a bit surprising that TSA functions as well as it does. If new top leadership was installed that had a clear vision, emphasized communication, and offered accountability at all levels, TSA could really be a success story. First though, they need to clean house.

Tony February 21, 2021 - 8:37 pm

I suspect TSA agents are “nasty” and “rude” because they’re human and humans get tired of telling people the same thing over and over again that they should already know. everyone should know to take your shoes off before u go thru a metal detector, everyone should know not to go thru a metal detector until they call you to go through. people should know not to get into the precheck line if you dont have precheck, or get into the first class line if you’re not flying first class. i fly a lot so i see this all the time, i get their frustration dealing with literal stupid people. I don’t excuse it of course, that’s their job to work with the public, but i get how it happens. I dont think TSA agents go out of their way to be nasty, i think it just happens.

SharonKurheg February 21, 2021 - 9:06 pm

Your focus is wrong from your very first sentence. Some people don’t fly very often – once very couple of years, at best. Some people are older and can’t hear, or take longer to respond. Some people don’t speak English as a primary language. All have happened for years longer than the TSA has been around.

So to use your own idea, “everyone” at the TSA should know that not all of their passengers will know or understand the rules, and although it’s the 40,000th time they’re explaining, it, for some it’s the first time they’ve heard it in years. Or occasionally ever.

But in that regard, yes, some people are just not cut out for the job.

Ryan Persad July 14, 2023 - 11:16 pm

I agree.

Ryan Persad July 14, 2023 - 10:48 pm

Many TSA officers are unnecessarily rude and nasty to passengers, including those passengers who are humble and obedient. You must also realize that a lot of these travelers are foreigners or infrequent fliers who are not sure of the procedures at a TSA checkpoint and need guidance from officers who are courteous, respectful and professional in the performance of their duty.This is definitely not a job for those who are impatient or just in it for the money .I know this because I have worked in the airport for the past 6 years.

James February 22, 2021 - 11:26 am

They are nasty and rude because TSA hires nasty and rude people. It’s that simple. Why does Chick-fil-A have friendly employees. s Chick-fil-A does not pay their employees and more than Burger King or McDonalds. The reason is they only hire friendly people. They do not hire nasty and rude people. They put new hires thru 2 weeks of customer training and get rid of people who are nasty and rude. It’s easy to filter out the nasty and rude but TSA chooses not to.

Ryan Persad July 14, 2023 - 10:49 pm

I quite agree with your comment.

Dean February 23, 2021 - 10:31 am

I’ll tell you another reason. I have a family member that works for the TSA, she’s the one that smiles and is friendly. But the TSA has a culture of work first, family last. And if you have kids that’s your problem. They are always changing her schedule and can do so without notice, making it impossible to have a life of any kind, handle daycare, etc. She’s part time and that’s what she signed up for. Yet they recently forced her to take more hours then she hired at. Again no notice, no asking. When your work schedule can change from working Thurs-Sat 3:30 am to 1:30 pm to Mon-Fri 3:30 am to 2:30 pm within one week, it makes daycare and kids schools a little rough. Not to mention the constant “we don’t have to follow employer rules, we’re the government” attitude. Like fighting for religious accommodation, they have been told that management doesn’t have to honor it. It’s a solid job, but at a lot of sacrifice.

KayRock December 11, 2021 - 8:38 pm

I don’t think this is why they sexual assault people, steal things from people, and threaten to put you on the no fly list if you ask why “X” is being done. These are damaged people with way too much power, and no benefit to actual flight security because of the inexcusably bad job they do. The corruption must go up to the people doing the hiring, because there’s no way this many psychologically ill people are getting hired across the country.

dublin October 29, 2022 - 6:59 pm

Had 2 domestic flights this week plus numerous others in the last month. Was TSA sunshine and rainbows? Actually a couple times yes. Otherwise professional and polite. TSA has radically improved over the last few years. And…@kayrock …wow. I mean just wow.

NB October 30, 2022 - 5:19 am

Sounds like they are treated like conscripts in the Russian army, and thus behave similarly.

Rod October 30, 2022 - 9:29 am

Well………..this is why NOAH’s ARK had animals ONLY!!

John Vanderaerden October 30, 2022 - 9:33 am

I always knew they are underpaid and overworked, got a friend who worked for them for a while, but that doesn’t justify why some of them are plain nasty, i forget to put in my suitcase a swiss knife, brought it with me in my laptop case, not only they took it away from me (anniversary gift from my wife, was having it with me for almost 20 years) they treat me like i was a member of Bin Laden gang, and treat me with incarceration and fines for having it with me, i had never heard of anyone harming another person with a Swiss knife, much less taking a plane down with it.

Jimmy October 30, 2022 - 10:20 am

TSA agents at small airports are generally delightful. I don’t think I’ve ever had an unpleasant interaction with the crew at MFR. It’s a good incentive to start a trip at your local airport instead of driving to the big one where, yes, they’ll yell at you.

mike murphy October 30, 2022 - 11:00 am

with the per ticket tsa fee collected it should be running at a profit. use then money for better training

Jethro Kay October 31, 2022 - 2:32 am

Boo hoo. If TSA agents can make more money working retail or making sandwiches, then that’s what they should do. They’d probably never have another job where they can boss around the general public with half the authority that that TSA badge gives them.

Andre Libert November 3, 2022 - 10:58 am

I was employed as an Airport Director at a medium sized airport on 9/11/01. The TSA was established relatively shortly thereafter with more and more Agents hired annually thereafter. Here we are with TSA just now beginning to look at their Agents and their lack of training, not too mention TSA’s hiring practices to begin with. Southwest Airlines has always been a customer service leader because their corporate culture encompasses pleasant, hapoy workers who love their jobs. That a U.S. Government Agency is just now trying to recreate the wheel after 21 years is not surprising.

Lee Sanyos November 3, 2022 - 11:09 am

I don’t buy it. They are not underpaid, they are paid to do a job that requires little effort or intelligence. They scan a license, watch you put a bag on the line, look at a monitor that highlights the problem, etc. Let them go make sandwiches; I have seen them screw that up to so the $39K, is too much as well. They can’t read the monitor to put the right toppings on the sandwich. You wonder why the FF chains went to pictures? Let’s be real for a second

Everyone wants to talk about money as the reason for poor behavior or who is underpaid. I agree, they are probably poorly screened, like many government workers, buy other unqualified government workers. See the theme?
I heard an argument the other day about the pay on teachers and cops, well no one was happy at the end but here is the skinny; teachers have off weekends, nights, summers and holidays and don’t work 8, 10 or 12 hr shifts. So if I were to divide by the # of working hours, they make more than most tradespersons working a full year, who probably has to work weekends, nights. I know; the Math teachers should have gotten this one right so it should make you wonder why our kids don’t know math.

Teachers know exactly who they have to deal with every-day and don’t walk into unknown places, with unknown assailants or unknown number of assailants with weapons on a daily basis and are pretty certain they will return after their work day is over.

SharonKurheg November 3, 2022 - 11:19 am

You make excellent points. But as I explained, money may not be the only factor.

Bigb November 3, 2022 - 12:01 pm

The TSA needs to be disbanded. Each airport should be responsible

SharonKurheg November 3, 2022 - 12:05 pm

How would they ensure everything is consistent? Or that all airports followed through if there was a threat of some sort? I think an umbrella that covers all airports is safer.

SAS December 25, 2022 - 1:59 pm

Have any of you even MET a TSA agent? My spouse is one, and they are excellent at their job, have earned several awards, and often take leadership responsibilities — so much so that my spouse’s coworkers are surprised to learn that my spouse has only been working with them for 13 short months because they conduct themselves with expertise. My spouse also spent a decade in customer service (fine dining and jewelry) before joining the TSA and thus has had *much* more training and experience in how to treat a customer while still being authoritative yet polite. That doesn’t stop him from receiving threats from middle aged women who are fed up with waiting in line for 10 minutes because they didnt bother to get there early enough to go through security and not miss their flight — lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part!
All of the problems mentioned in this article are true — you know every other govt agency is on a GS pay scale? TSOs are SERIOUSLY underpaid! Not only do they hire too many underqualified TSOs, but now they also have SSAs, which are essentially TSOs who can only screen your ID and grab bins — they are NOT trained TSOs at all, so if you are having excessive problems, it may be an SSA and not a TSA — my spouse works at a large airport, and all the TSOs that they work with despise them because even newly badged TSOs are having to correct them on how to do things properly.
They deal with ungrateful people all day long who cannot follow simple directions, get yelled at by them, sometimes even assaulted — had a female TSO get decked in the face by a male passenger just a few months ago, it really truly does happen. I won’t say there arent incompetent TSOs, there are too many. But if they would just fix the problems listed above, their jobs would be much easier and they could have a lot more focus on their customer service mannerisms.
Just cuz there arent news stories every day about the threats they prevent doesnt mean they are doing nothing. I promise they dont wanna tear apart your whole bag to throw away your expensive shampoo — but hey, it’s pretty easy to go online and see what you can and cannot bring. Just follow directions and dont bring the stuff you arent supposed to that is listed online.
***And if you have language or comprehension barriers, that is something that can be remedied by knowing what resources they have available. Ask for a PSS — those are TSOs that have special training in assisting people who ask for it, such as those with language barriers, special needs, or literally anything that any customer needs help with — my spouse walked someone that was visually impaired to their check point even though they did not ask, saying “you shouldnt have to deal with that, I can help and it’s no inconvenience to me whatsoever; I am here to help” and they were very thankful to have someone to assist them. The PSS TSOs volunteer to get that extra training (is not given without being requested by the TSO themselves) to be a PSS, so these are the kind of TSOs that CAN and WANT to help you… I want people to know they have these things available, because it isnt something people outside of airport staff generally know about***

Aubrey May 20, 2023 - 1:35 am

Regardless of TSA payscale , there is no excuse for the level of disrespect inflicted on passengers. after all many of said passengers are U.S. citizens whose tax dollars pay there salaries.

Ryan Persad July 14, 2023 - 11:01 pm

I agree with you..

Meg November 27, 2023 - 10:43 pm

I re-entered the country around two weeks ago, and a mental breakdown has been in the works ever since. I had no idea that anyone (much less several different, unrelated people working at six different checkpoints) could all be so rude to me in the same afternoon. I’ve never felt more demoralized in my entire life. They screamed in my face. They overly frisked me in a violatory way. They pointed and laughed at me. And I just took it, so that I wouldn’t be detained or put on a no-fly list, or whatever. Now I’m speaking out. They picked the wrong person to screw with. But NO ONE should be treated this way. Except maybe other TSA agents, since they seem to think it’s okay. They can give it, but I seriously doubt they could take it.


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