On March 18 musician and record producer Butch Walker was flying from Los Angeles to Austin, Texas and was having problems getting through the screening process.
He tweeted his ongoing frustration American Airlines and TSA PreCheck, and in a few minutes Transportation Security Administration spokesman Ross Feinstein reached out to him and worked out the ongoing problem to get Walker through the screening checkpoint.
For people not used to dealing directly with federal agencies on social media, Feinstein said TSA now just sees it as the tip of the spear for an improved customer experience.
"We work very closely with the airlines, especially the US airlines, the major ones of course. If we can work together to help troubleshoot an issue, we will be glad to do that," Feinstein said. He said the agency – which has hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – is continuing to expand their presence in order to educate travelers and help solve their problems.
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Earlier this year, a delay in an airport shuttle caused the closure of a TSA checkpoint, and the agency tweeted live updates for passengers until they were able to reopen.
"It's another great way that we can help work with passengers and learn their concerns. Ultimately, if we fix an issue that they have, then the next experience they have is just that much better," Feinstein said.
The Transportation Security Administration has been shifting from a one-size-fits-all screening approach to a risk-based model – and dramatically improving the customer experience at the same time.
"We have also tried to expand our customer service efforts, as well. Our officers do receive customer service training, supervisors get customer service training and training in interacting with the general public, as well," Feinstein said.
Tight budgets have also placed a focus on educating passengers about prohibited items, the screening process and airline safety in order to reduce delays at checkpoints and process the more than 1.8 million people a day who use the airports.
Since TSA Pre-check began in 2011, complaints regarding wait times at airports have gone down 25 percent, according to the agency. The program has expanded to more than 600 security lanes at 125 airports across the country.
The agency has also been at work creating, upgrading and promoting its MyTSA mobile application, which offers wait times at airports, information about traveling and a searchable "can I bring that?" tool that allows passengers to check on the legality of obscure items.
"We don't want them to get in trouble, we don't want them being arrested, we don't want them to be fined by the TSA – we want to ensure that at the end of the day, they can go through the checkpoint quickly," he said.
The extra effort is paying off as well: in 2014 fewer than 0.32 percent of passengers waited more than 20 minutes to get through a TSA screening checkpoint, Feinstein said.
"Everything we do in TSA now, is risk-based and intelligence-driven, using the best of the intelligence community and changing our procedures and security posture, based on that real-time intelligence," Feinstein said. ". It's a real success for everyone."