Is it OK to fly with that? Ask TSA on social media
Can you bring that pie to your family in a carry-on bag when you fly home for the holidays?
The Transportation Security Administration has the answer for that. But don’t bother calling them—they prefer to answer over Twitter.
The administration created @AskTSA in May 2015 to field the questions and concerns of everyday travelers over Twitter. The TSA doubled down on their social media response team with the addition of an AskTSA Facebook page this past July.
Jennifer Plozai, a deputy assistant administrator for public affairs at the TSA, said the accounts have responded to more than 95,000 inquiries, with the page managers aiming to respond to every request within an hour.
“People were, quite honestly, pleasantly surprised that TSA was being so helpful, friendly and quick to respond to their questions,” Plozai said. “It really turned the perception people had about TSA on its head.”
Plozai said the AskTSA efforts have led to more follow-up questions and more information about flyers’ airport experiences.
AskTSA grew as an extension of the TSA’s Public Affairs team. The social media accounts let the organization handle questions about approved personal items as well as complaints and concerns over TSA wait times at different airports.
The TSA also uses Instagram to showcase some of the often humorous objects passengers try to bring on flights. Officials also write a blog in which they elaborate on their 140-character responses.
“There is no time to talk, to listen, to engage with each other [at the airport],” a post on the blog reads. “There isn’t much opportunity for our Security Officers to explain the ‘why’ of what we ask you to do at the checkpoint, just the ‘what’ needs to be done to clear security. … Our ambition is to provide here a forum for “This angle grinder was discovered in a carryon bag at Atlanta (ATL). Could this possibly be for splitting Aunt Betty’s homemade dinner rolls? All power tools are prohibited from carry-on bags. They may be packed in checked baggage. #ThanksgivingTravel” —@ TSA Instagram
lively, open discussion of TSA issues.”
The AskTSA accounts attract some angry comments, too. Social media officials are in contact with TSA officials at individual airports and can relay issues. Plozai, who is based in Washington, D.C., says the accounts are run by 10 team members who monitor the mentions and messages sent to both the Twitter and Facebook accounts.
The AskTSA team also works with airline and airport social media accounts to redirect questions about check-in, boarding and more.
With the holiday season coming up, @AskTSA expects a spike in incoming mentions and messages about travel concerns. Plozai said passengers appreciate having someone at the agency to reach out to. “Based on the number of ‘thank you’ messages we receive every day, travelers seem to genuinely appreciate the fact that we’re here to make their travel experience safer and a bit more pleasant.” Story courtesy of Chicago Tribune’s Blue Sky Innovation, featuring news, analysis and events related to innovation, entrepreneurship and the next Big Idea.