GOVERNMENT FOR THE PEOPLE: PROFILES ON THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

Airport Security Screening and Passenger Support Services

Transportation Security Administration, Department of Homeland Security


Executive Summary

Transportation Security Administration officers responsible for keeping air travel safe screened more than 813 million travelers in fiscal 2019, on par with the busiest travel years on record. The screening environment changed dramatically in early 2020 as air travel evaporated during the coronavirus pandemic. TSA faced new challenges in keeping staff and travelers safe during screening interactions and answering questions from the public about traveling during the crisis.

Before the pandemic hit, travelers were largely satisfied with the overall screening process at TSA checkpoints, citing reasonable wait times and professional officers. People also had positive experiences when seeking TSA guidance and information on social media about traveling.

To improve the customer experience, TSA officers could communicate more clearly with travelers during screening processes, for example, explaining to passengers why they have been selected for additional screening. This is an issue we noted in our report last year that TSA still needs to address. Additionally, while customer satisfaction with the TSA website has improved overall, some webpages, including those with important information for travelers with disabilities, could be more user-friendly.


Data at a Glance

increase in satisfaction with TSA.gov since 2016 

customer satisfaction rate with #AskTSA social media accounts 

 of passengers surveyed in 2019
said that TSA officers did not clearly explain the reasons for additional screening 

Service Overview

Primary Customers

Passengers of many modes of transportation within the United States, with air travelers making up the majority.

Key services related to security screening and passenger support (data for fiscal 2019) 

  • Security screenings at U.S. airports.  
    • 813.3 million passengers and crew members screened.
      (780.6 million in fiscal 2018)
  • Information about policies and procedures for traveling and preparing for checkpoint screenings.  
  • Enrollment and application processing for TSA PreCheck.™ 
    • 2,139,216 new enrollments 
      (1.8 million in fiscal 2018.)
    • 590,918 renewals
      (818 renewals in fiscal 2018.1)
  • Assistance during the security screening process—through the TSA Cares program— for passengers with disabilities, medical conditions or other special circumstances.  
    • 27,712 requests for assistance.
      (24,242 in fiscal 2018) 
  • Clarification related to watchlist names to prevent confusion about and misidentification of travelers through the Department of Homeland Security Traveler Redress Inquiry Program.  
    • 16,141 applications reviewed.
      (15,710 in fiscal 2018)


People Interact With TSA By

(All data for fiscal year 2019)

VISITING ONLINE

58.4 million 

visits to TSA.gov


(48.9 million in fiscal 18)

CALLING THE CONTACT CENTER

1.3 million 

calls


(1.2 million in fiscal 18)

AVERAGE WAIT TIME FOR CALLS 

<1 minute 


(same in fiscal 18)

EMAILING THE CONTACT CENTER

>120,905 

emails


(113,674 in fiscal 18)


Customer Experience Insights

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  • Average wait times for standard TSA checkpoints in fiscal 2019: about 4.8 minutes.3
  • Average wait times for standard TSA checkpoints during peak travel times in fiscal 2019: 14.2 minutes.
  • Average wait times PreCheck™ lanes in fiscal 2019: about 1.6 minutes.

As one of the first federal agencies to use social media to provide customer service, TSA uses multiple platforms to share information with customers about screening procedures and respond to travelers’ inquiries. During the rapidly evolving coronavirus pandemic, social media channels were crucial for quickly getting travelers the latest information. The agency used its AskTSA Twitter account to answer questions—typically within an hour—and clarify which items travelers could bring in their carry-on bags to stay safe. In addition to disinfectant wipes and facemasks, the agency started allowing one liquid hand sanitizer container up to 12 ounces, instead of the original 3.4 ounce-limit.

  • Customer satisfaction rate for AskTSA social media accounts: above 92%.

The call line provides information about traveling and passing through security checkpoints, including clarification around ID requirements, what items people can bring through security checkpoints and enrollment into TSA PreCheck.™ 

  • Callers’ rating of TSA customer service line support: 4.3 out of 5.

TSA may select travelers for additional screening for a variety of reasons, for example, suspicious behavior or they have the same name as someone on a list of known or suspected terrorists. The agency does not disclose these reasons to individual passengers for security purposes. However, travelers become confused and frustrated when officers dnot explain why someone was selected for additional screening or what the additional screening process entails.   

  • 21% of passengers stated that TSA officers did not clearly explain the reasons for additional screening, according to a 2019 TSA survey.4

In 2019, TSA began updating its standard training for security officers to help them communicate better with the public, including helping security officers explain why additional screening is necessary without revealing sensitive security information.  

Customer Satisfaction with TSA.gov
FY 16 FY 17 FY 18 FY 196
How would you rate your overall experience today?
(Excellent or Good)
72.0% 78.0% 83.3% 83.5%
Were you able to complete the purpose of your visit?
(Yes)
66.9% 73.5% 79.7% 79.2%
Will you still return to this website?
(Yes)
88.1% 91.2% 93.4% 94.7%
Will you recommend this website to a friend or colleague?
(Yes)
85.5% 90.6% 92.3% 91.6%

TSA webpages that answer questions about new Real ID requirements and describe special procedures for travelers with disabilities and medical conditions received a D in our analysis.  

Website Experience:
How easy is it to navigate and understand online information? 

Reviewers looked at the pages from the perspective of people seeking to answer two questions:

TSA Grade

D


Strengths

  • Finding general information about travelers with disabilities from the main page is relatively simple—it is clearly shown with an icon.
  • Including an FAQs section is a helpful approach to educating users about the new REAL ID requirements.


Opportunities to improve

  • Locating specific information about what a traveler with disabilities can expect or will need to do to prepare is more difficult than finding general information. Users may miss the drop- down menu with this information because it is off to the side and low enough on the page that it is not seen at first glance.
  • Information about preparing for new REAL ID requirements could be more user-friendly if presented as steps or a task-oriented list, rather than as a narrative.
  • Some answers in the FAQs are unclear. For example, the answer to “What happens if my ID doesn't have a star?” is “You must present an acceptable ID…” This doesn’t really tell a user what to do next if they don’t have a compliant ID, which is the information they really need.
General disability information is not as useful as specific condition-oriented information, which is difficult to find because users need to scroll down to see the link: (https://www.tsa.gov/travel/special-procedures)
REAL ID information should be less narrative and instead present the steps users need to take to become REAL ID compliant (https://www.tsa.gov/real-id)

Key

Improvement from last year

Ongoing challenge


Connecting on Social Media

As of September 2020, the agency’s social media presence included: 


Twitter

(@AskTSA)

Joined: May 2015



Followers: 55,300 



Total tweets: 125,600


(@TSA)

Joined: November 2011



Followers: 237,700 



Total tweets: 10,000 


Facebook

(@AskTSA)

Joined: June 2016



Followers: 36,500



Total likes: 34,000


(@TSA)

Joined: April 2017



Followers: 28,600



Total likes: 26,300


Instagram

(@TSA)

Joined: June 2013



Followers: 1,000,000



Total posts: 1,756


YouTube

(TSA)

Joined: June 2007



Subscribers: Not available



Total views: 19.6 million

Social media practices

Posts almost daily?
No



Responds to customers?
Yes – regularly



Includes multimedia content?
Yes

For background information on these metrics and our full methodology click here.

How TSA adapted services during the coronavirus

The typically busy environment at TSA checkpoints changed drastically during the coronavirus pandemic as the number of air travelers plummeted. Throughout April 2020, the agency screened around 100,000 passengers a day, down from more than 2 million passengers a day in April 2019, according to TSA data.  

The agency shifted its focus to keeping staff and passengers safe during the screening experience and answering questions about traveling during the crisis. It implemented numerous procedures such as metering passengers to increase physical distance between individuals waiting in security checkpoint lines, training employees to thoroughly clean frequently touched surfaces such as luggage bins and having screeners use a fresh pair of gloves upon the request of passengers. The agency used its @AskTSA Twitter account to answer questions, and set up a website to inform the public if an officer had tested positive for the virus, listing the airport and the last day the individual had worked.

Despite these steps, the agency faced criticism that it could have done more, including issuing more personal protective equipment to employees and providing guidance on how to deal with passengers who appeared to be sick.2  

Enrollment centers for TSA PreCheck™ applications largely remained open during the coronavirus outbreak, with 80% operating as of late July 2020. Though enrollment centers operated at decreased staffing capacity, customers did not experience delays in their PreCheck™ applications since the agency dealt with fewer applicants. Customers also could fully renew their TSA PreCheck™ status online.  

Indicators that the Customer Experience is a High Priority 

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Commitment to Customer Experience

TSA:

Includes high-quality customer experience in its strategic goals.


Specifies customer feedback as a key measure of the organization’s performance.


Has a senior executive with the responsibility and authority to lead efforts to improve customer experience across the organization.


Shares meaningful customer feedback data with the public.

Improvement from 2019.

Customer Service Basics 

For the most common services provided, customers can: 

Complete frequently used transactions online.


Easily find information to call an appropriate representative.


Schedule in-person appointments.


Obtain status updates.


Find standardized and consistent information and guidance across channels.

Improvement from 2019.

Customer Feedback 

The agency collects and analyzes data and information on customer perceptions:   

Of specific interactions, including website visits, phone calls and in-person appointments. 


Of a customer journey through a series of interactions or multistage processes that build toward a specific goal.


Of the overall service the organization provides.


Through qualitative research, such as customer interviews, focus groups, analysis of social media comments or direct observation.


Through a structured analysis of comments about the service left on social media channels.

More details about our methodology

This customer experience profile was produced in collaboration with Accenture Federal Services.