Air Serv / TSA

Below, a person who writes travel books shares his experience with employees from a company called Air Serv Corp from Atlanta, Georgia and the US Transportation Security Administration. (Note: it appears that at least one TSA employee has referred to this company as “Airserve”)

But never, anywhere in the world — including a fairly wide variety of police states — have I been threatened with arrrest while travelling, merely for asking questions about what was happening.

Until last month, at Dulles Airport outside Washington, DC, USA.

I checked in at the United Airlines counter, showed my USA passport to the airline staff person when they asked me to show them my identification, and received my boarding pass and baggage check with almost an hour left before my flight. (I didn’t argue, but what they meant was to “show my credentials” — identification is an act or process, not a tangible object.)

So when one of a group of people between the check-in counter and the TSA checkpoint — who appeared to be neither TSA nor airline employees — said to me, “I need to see your boarding pass and ID”, I took the time to ask him, “Why? Who are you?”

“I need to check your boarding pass and ID,” he repeated. (“I need to…” is a peculiarly ambiguous locution. Is it an order, or a request? Must I satisfy your needs?)

“But why? Who do you work for? Am I required to open my passport for unidentified strangers?”

“We work for the TSA”, he said, and pointed to a logo on the badge that hung from a a lanyard around his neck.

There was a logo there — too small for me to read, even with my bifocals, without getting closer than seemed polite. But he wasn’t wearing anything that looked like a TSA uniform, and the largest line on his and his colleagues’ badges said, Airserv . I didn’t see anything saying “TSA” or “United Airlines”.

“Do you work for the TSA? Or do you work for Airserv?”

“Actually, we work for Airserv.”

“So what’s the relationship between Airserv and the TSA? Does the TSA require me to open my passport for you?”

“All our screening personnel at this airport are TSA employees,” Mr Graham told me.

“I see, sir. Thank you for clarifying that. So do these people with the badges that say ‘Airserv’ work for the TSA?”


“That’s what I thought, sir. But this man claimed that they work for the TSA, and said that’s why they have the TSA logo on their badges.”

“TSA logo? There’s no TSA logo on their badges. That’s the logo of Customs and Border Protection [another division of the Department of Homeland Security]. That shows that they are authorized to be in the secure customs area of the airport.”

“Then are you concerned, sir, that he claimed to be a TSA employee, when he’s not?”

“No, sir. That’s not my concern.” I thought that impersonating a Federal officer was a serious crime, but Mr. Graham didn’t seem to care.

To give an added frisson of resemblance to countries with corrupt or dysfunctional police and governments, the people in uniform demanding people’s credentials are lying about being government employees. The real government employees watching them don’t care.

4 Responses to “Air Serv / TSA”

  1. Educated Traveler Says:

    I am writing this note in response to the letter written about the security at the airport. It seems that the general population does not take the time to think a whole situation through before they decide to comment and publish something that could potentially harm the hard working people who make their living checking ID’s and boarding passes in the airport across the nation.

    First – The point of having a person between the airline counter (while isn’t always an airline representative but a contracted worker who provides the boarding pass) and the TSA (who doesn’t run every check point) is to prevent the dishonest person coming through the checkpoint and creating problems in the secure area of an airport. If you think about it, there could be numerous people that would enjoy causing numerous problems that maybe would not challenge the safety of the airline or the airport, but could cause other problems that would delay flights, close particular airports, etc. If you are a concerned passenger why wouldn’t you check up on all travel requirements prior to arriving at the airport instead of holding up the rest of the waiting public to ask questions about a process that has been in effect since the September 11 disaster?

    Second – Unfortunately there are many people just like you who ask “Why do I need to show YOU my ID.” So the person working the line has two choices. (S)He can answer honestly and go into a 20 minute discussion about how airlines, airports, and TSA contract out work and that the company they work for is contracted out and so they do not work for the TSA or the airline but for Air Serv. Or they can just say I work for TSA. Was it an impersonation? Well maybe you should look up the word impersonation. No they were trying to make the line move so other passenger will not complain about that issue.

    Business is complex no matter what field it is in and while I believe you should question what goes on in this world, I also believe there is a time and a place.

  2. bork Says:

    Note that my blog post only contains segments of the story.

    See the link for more details.

  3. Educated Traveler Says:

    I read your entire situation and the information you were given by the TSA was wrong. I am very well versed in the rules and regulations of the TSA and the airport. You are wrong in this situation.

  4. bork Says:

    Thank you for your comments. I have edited my blog post for clarification. The person who had the experience at the airport can be contacted here:

    I think that he would be interested in the rules and regulations that you know about.

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