With the Transportation Security Administration, there is almost always a method to the madness. For instance, fliers who found themselves standing out on the runway after the LAX shooting last November should have been relieved that they were out of harm’s way, TSA spokesman Nico Melendez said Saturday at the Los Angeles Times Travel Show.
"That’s a good thing," the 12-year-TSA veteran said, noting authorities had no way of knowing whether the attacker was trying to herd passengers into an ambush at more vulnerable drop-off points.
TSA hot-button policies were at the top of Saturday's forum, which will be repeated again Sunday at 11 a.m., at the L.A. Convention Center, moderated by Times columnist Robin Abcarian.
Judging by the Internet, Abcarian noted, travelers might think that the TSA is in constant disarray. Melendez admitted to missteps, but said that all complaints are investigated. "We own up to our problems, but we have also had our share of successes," he said.
He reminded the audience that the TSA was formed in a hurry in the aftermath of 9/11, and that the agency experienced growing pains.
He encouraged travelers frustrated by checkpoint waits to make use of TSA Pre-Check services, the 2-year-old program now in 140 airports around the country. Signup venues are open in the Los Angeles area in Signal Hill, Carson and Glendale, with an onsite booth due to open soon at Los Angeles International Airport.
Melendez said his agency's handling of no-fly lists has improved. Mismatches have been reduced, he said, thanks to additional information on fliers, such as middle initials and date of birth.
Among other tips for passengers, Melendez said:
—Fliers who leave items behind at security checkpoints should contact the TSA about getting them back. The agency attempts to get keys, passports and other forgotten items back to passengers when possible.
—If you lose or forget your ID when headed to the airport, don’t panic. Screening managers can check your background online and you will probably be able to fly. "We have to make accommodations for people who have their wallet stolen or leave their purse in a taxi," he said.