Airline Travel Tips from TSA

TSA explains why bags don't arrive to your destination and other tips

Mike Baggerman
July 26, 2017 - 3:00 am

WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) – During the tour of the checked-luggage area of the Buffalo Niagara International Airport on Tuesday, WBEN received a behind-the-scenes look at the complex and technological process involved in transporting your luggage safely from one airport to another.

However, mistakes do happen, though. On a very rare occasion, you, or someone you know, reached a destination without your luggage.

We asked TSA’s Customer Support Quality Manager Brett O’Neil a simple question: Why does a bag miss a flight?

“There could be a number of circumstances that cause a bag to miss a flight,” O’Neil said. “It could be the late check-in by the passenger and (TSA) didn’t have time to load it. It could be that there was an issue with the bag and the airline didn’t have enough time to get in touch with the passenger before they left. It could be that TSA had a question about a bag that, for some reason, somehow the passenger got on board but the bag was left behind.”

O’Neil said TSA is in constant communication with airlines regarding their schedule and explained that even if they have to physically open and inspect a bag, they average three-to-four minutes per bag.

“If there is something in the bag as a result of the inspection that we need to find then we let the airline know and we let the police officers know and they try to contact the passenger at the gate before they leave,” he added. “Or we let them know that the bag was detained in Buffalo for some reason.”

It’s recommended to arrive to the airport 90 minutes before you flight is scheduled to depart.

“People in Buffalo get used to a 10 or 15 minute wait which is how we operate because we’re a very efficient airport here,” O’Neil said. “But there are times where, all of the sudden, there’s a problem at the checkpoint or there’s a problem at the airport which causes the lines to get backed up. We don’t want people to think that they’re going to walk in 15 minutes (before departure) and be through the checkpoint.”

O’Neil began working for TSA in 2002 and said the technology within the airport has grown immensely.

“In 2002, every single bag that we had that came through this airport had to be physically lifted and put on a belt and physically opened,” he said. “We didn’t have x-rays so the change of just that is extraordinary, the fact that we have computers that scan computers for us and x-rays that scan for us.”

He believes the future of TSA will include greater use of technology to help officers do their jobs.

“I think our reach is going to expand. I think from a security and safety standpoint I think we get better at it as we cooperate with a lot more agencies and, possibly, a lot more airlines,” he said. “After we get more data, I think from a technology and a knowledge and from a country standpoint of taking it more security, I think that’s going to change a lot.”

TSA has about 45,000 officers in the United States according to O’Neil but couldn’t provide an exact number of TSA officers in Buffalo but did say it was in the hundreds. 

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