From throwing away half-full water bottles to tediously unlacing sneakers, most flyers would agree that passing through the Transportation Security Administration checkpoint is one of the more arduous aspects of traveling. However, recently the airport security team has sought to alleviate the process with their new interactive social media accounts, AskTSA.
After noticing a growing trend of passengers reaching out via Twitter, AskTSA launched a pilot program last September that empathized with the weary flier and hoped to improve overall travel experiences. The account was immediately met with praise and has since continued to grow. Now, its outreach stretches across Twitter and Facebook (which launched in July), with more than 52,000 total inquiries thus far. Its social media presence provides an intimate setting for users to interact with TSA as they do with friends. It is managed by the TSA Office of Public Affairs, which is a diverse subgroup of the Transportation Security Operations Center—the pulse of TSA's intelligence.
Its multi-purposed account engages the user in a variety of ways. Through AskTSA, passengers can better recover and report lost items at the airport, discover how to travel when an ID has been lost or stolen, schedule TSA Pre appointments, and more. Users can now interact with its Facebook messenger bot by sending in photos to verify whether their items would be allowed through the gate. Because the program is sculpted around improving the user's experience, passenger comfort is greatly considered. One of its top priorities is assisting travelers with disabilities or medical conditions to insure they easily get through security.
"It has become clear to us that when someone engages with our team, they leave with the impression that TSA cares about the security of travelers and is focused on helping improve the overall travel experience," Jennifer Plozai, TSA's Director of External Communications, told Motherboard. "Travelers appreciate that we are there to listen and willing to help in any way we can."
In addition to fostering a helpful relationship with potential travellers, AskTSA may also improve airport security. By utilizing social media to better prep passengers for their voyage, the program has the potential to free officers of some of those duties and allow them to devote more energy into averting terrorist attacks on commercial aviation.
All in all, as more and more travellers jump on the interactive bandwagon, the success of AskTSA's user-outreach services will continue to grow. The future may even see the program expanding across other apps or social media platforms.
"The possibilities are endless," said Plozai.