I honestly didn't plan to put the airport security system to the test. I was just really tired and didn't notice that the name on the ticket wasn't mine -- it wasn't even female. But I unwittingly managed to find a chink in the TSA armor last weekend.
My father had booked me a last-minute ticket to Houston on Friday for my sister's bridal shower on Sunday using his frequent flyer miles. Somehow his name ended up on the reservation -- not mine -- but neither of us noticed amid hectic workdays and a pretty quick flight turnaround time. I woke up the next morning, made it to LaGuardia Airport by 6am to catch my 7:15am flight and breezed through my self-check-in, since I wasn't checking a bag.
Even security was quick. The first TSA agent who checked my ID with my ticket handed me a TSA pre-check waiver before getting into the security line. I got this waiver, because my father, whose name was on the ticket, receives expedited check-in. He travels so frequently for work that he signed up for Global Entry, so he's what they categorize as a "known traveler"... yet they didn't seem to notice it was me and not my "known traveler" father, Robert Adams.
I got to skip to the front of the line, where a second TSA agent checked my ticket and ID again, circling various items on the ticket, as per usual. She then told me that I didn't have to take off my shoes or my jacket and that I could forgo that body scanner thing altogether -- not per usual. I'm not an expert in frequent flyer miles or any of the perks that come with them, so I figured that maybe that was part of the deal? Or maybe I was just particularly non-threatening-looking that day? Either way, I got to keep my shoes on, so I thought, Who cares?
I landed in Houston a few minutes before my scheduled arrival time, still oblivious to the fact that I'd managed to travel across the country using a plane ticket meant for someone else.
It was only when I was at the airport in Houston for my return flight that airport security noticed. On Sunday evening, I checked in and made it past the first TSA agent, receiving that handy pre-check waiver. (What luck! I get to keep my shoes on again!) When I reached the last TSA agent before the actual security checkpoint, that's when somebody finally noticed I had been using a ticket with a name that wasn't mine.
The agent was shocked to find out that I'd made it this far at Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport and practically gobsmacked that I'd made it through LaGuardia security for the first leg of my roundtrip. She promptly sent me out of the line, and I managed to catch a later flight with a ticket for me, Rebecca -- not to be confused with Robert -- Adams.
It wasn't so easy to get a new flight, though. My wrong-name ticket was essentially useless, unless my dad wanted to take an impromptu trip to New York (he didn't). The agents at the airport can't do a thing when it comes to frequent flyer miles, so by the time it was all straightened out, the only flight I could make that night was one that got me to Newark Liberty International Airport at 1:30am. I suppose this was my punishment for failing to notice the error earlier. (Any Brooklyn-dwelling New Yorker can commiserate with me about the pain-in-the-ass factor getting to and from Newark adds.)
OK, so maybe I can't be too critical -- hey, neither I nor my father noticed the mix-up. Plus, our names are kind of similar-looking, despite the difference in genders. But what this says about the alertness of our TSA agents, the very people who are supposed to be safeguarding us during air travel, isn't good. I'm not the first person, by any means, to slip past the not-quite-hawk eyes of the TSA either. Even fake bombs and loaded guns can make it passed airport security these days. [Ed. note: Holy shit.]
Perhaps theses TSA agents are overworked: I can imagine that long hours at a podium performing a single task for passenger after passenger after passenger can be mind-numbing. Clearly, something needs to change when it comes to airport security, though, because all of the awkward full-body scanners and annoying liquid restrictions in the world can't prevent the most simple human error: matching the name on the ticket with the passenger's ID.