Air Passenger Screening: Transportation Security Administration Could Improve Complaint Processes

Air Passenger Screening: Transportation Security Administration Could Improve Complaint Processes

by U.S. Government Accountability Office
     
 
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) receives thousands of air passenger screening complaints through five mechanisms, but does not have an agency wide policy or consistent processes to guide receipt and use of such information. For example, from October 2009 through June 2012, TSA received more than 39,000 screening complaints through its TSA Contact

Overview

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) receives thousands of air passenger screening complaints through five mechanisms, but does not have an agency wide policy or consistent processes to guide receipt and use of such information. For example, from October 2009 through June 2012, TSA received more than 39,000 screening complaints through its TSA Contact Center (TCC). However, the data from the five mechanisms do not reflect the full nature and extent of complaints because local TSA staff have discretion in implementing TSA's complaint processes, including how they receive and document complaints. For example, comment cards are used at four of the six airports GAO contacted, but TSA does not have a policy requiring that complaints submitted using the cards be tracked or reported centrally. A consistent policy to guide all TSA efforts to receive and document complaints would improve TSA's oversight of these activities and help ensure consistent implementation. TSA also uses TCC data to inform the public about air passenger screening complaints, monitor operational effectiveness of airport security checkpoints, and make changes as needed. However, TSA does not use data from its other four mechanisms, in part because the complaint categories differ, making data consolidation difficult. A process to systematically collect information from all mechanisms, including standard complaint categories, would better enable TSA to improve operations and customer service. TSA has several methods to inform passengers about its complaint processes, but does not have an agency wide policy or mechanism to ensure consistent use of these methods among commercial airports. For example, TSA has developed standard signs, stickers, and customer comment cards that can be used at airport checkpoints to inform passengers about how to submit feedback to TSA; however, GAO found inconsistent use at the six airports it contacted. For example, two airports displayed customer comment cards at the checkpoint, while at two others the cards were provided upon request. Passengers may be reluctant to ask for such cards, however, according to TSA. TSA officials at four of the six airports also said that the agency could do more to share best practices for informing passengers about complaint processes. Policies for informing the public about complaint processes and mechanisms for sharing best practices among local TSA officials could help provide TSA reasonable assurance that these activities are being conducted consistently and help local TSA officials learn from one another about what practices work well. TSA's complaint resolution processes do not fully conform to standards of independence to ensure that these processes are fair, impartial, and credible, but the agency is taking steps to improve independence. Specifically, TSA airport officials responsible for resolving air passenger complaints are generally in the same chain of command as TSA airport staff who are the subjects of the complaints. TSA is developing a new process that could help ensure greater independence by TSA units referring air passenger complaints directly to its Ombudsman Division and by providing passengers an independent avenue to make complaints to that division. TSA also plans to initiate a program by January 2013 in which selected TSA airport staff are to be trained as passenger advocates as a collateral duty. It is too early to assess the extent to which these initiatives will help mitigate possible concerns about independence.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781481073707
Publisher:
CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date:
11/22/2012
Pages:
52
Product dimensions:
8.50(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.11(d)

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