Employee Spotlight: Provincetown Municipal Airport STSO Philip Mackay

Tuesday, June 8, 2021
STSO Mackay photo

Humorous true story– the checkpoint introduction

The response from a passenger in a wheelchair to the discovery of a small bottle of water in her carry-on became so loud and unreasonable she turned heads on the checkpoint and piqued the attention of law enforcement nearby. Watching from a short distance and sizing up the escalating situation, Supervisory TSA Officer Philip Mackay calmly approached the passenger and asked, “What can I do for you? How are you?”

“I’m furious,” fumed the passenger, who had already sprung up from her chair. “Well hi, Furious,” replied Mackay wearing an interested expression. “I’m Phil. Let’s find out how I can help you.”

Special sauce

Mackay in the sun photo
Mackay soaks in the rays on the Airport Operations Area (AOA). (Photo courtesy of Phil Mackay)

If you could have asked the irate passenger how the supervisor defused her anger, she probably couldn’t have explained it. That’s because Provincetown Municipal Airport (PVC) Officer Mackay’s genuineness is so natural, it passes as an intangible. You can’t pinpoint exactly what he did or said to make you feel so good, but gosh darn, life is so much better when he’s involved!

“I have a big personality and have a quick wit, so I use humor to defuse situations— to make my point or just to lighten the mood,” said Mackay. “I read each passenger and situation so I can appropriately respond and resolve the issue. If I feel they won’t be receptive to humor, I don’t use it.” It’s a successful tactic he’s used to his advantage all his life.

As he and Ms. Furious chatted, Phil learned what he suspected all along; it wasn’t about the water. She was traveling to a funeral and was in a bad place. They hugged it out. “I want everyone to know when they are in this airport, they are safe, accepted and cared for,” said Mackay.

Diverse and inclusive

That inclusive feeling is a theme Mackay is passionate about spreading as a board member for the newly formed TSA Pride. “I have always been fortunate to be so comfortable and accepting of myself and being a more outspoken and bigger guy, I felt I was always a role model and protector for others who did not have the same self-confidence I did,” said Mackay.

In his typically confident style, Mackay came out to his parents as a gay man when he was 22. He was petrified at what others would think, but the desire to live authentically was stronger than any fear he could have imagined. While his father took the news in stride, his mother needed almost a year to adjust. “After the news settled in, they both became big supporters and they always had an extra bed, a seat at the dinner table, a compassionate ear and an open heart for any of my friends, gay or straight.” 

After stints as a truck driver for a produce company and as a collection manager for the Massachusetts Laborers Benefit Funds office, Mackay on-boarded with TSA at Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) in 2010. He didn’t come out as gay right away, but didn’t hide his sexual orientation from others.

“I am not one to make others feel uncomfortable, so I chose whom to come out and when based on my relationship with them and how I felt they would react,” said Mackay. “Most everyone took the news in stride and didn’t even flinch when I opened up to them about who I was on the inside.”

Location, location, location

Mackay with his dad photo
: Phil Mackay with his dad, a Marine Corps Korean War veteran on the way to a parade at which his dad was grand marshal. (Photo courtesy of Phil Mackay)

Transferring to PVC in 2017 “was a great decision, but I always carry my BOS friendships close to my heart,” said an enthusiastic Mackay. Located at the northern tip of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, P-town as it’s called, “is a mecca to the LGBTQ community and the majority of our passengers who fly out are members of that community,” continued Mackay. Summer is high season and it flies by.

“But Provincetown in the winter provides its own wonderful backdrop where we prepare for whatever Mother Nature is going to throw at us,” says Mackay. As a group, we take this time to focus on training and reconnecting as a team.”

What I do matters

“What I do as a supervisor and member of the TSA family matters because as a supervisor and just as a co-worker, I realize how important each and every member of my team is to the mission. 

“I lead a diverse group of individuals from all backgrounds so I feel that it is important to embrace the diversity that working in Provincetown provides and I feel that by doing so, it helps keep us unified and allows us to keep a strong focus on the mission.

“We all bring something to the table in order to achieve our daily goals and together, we keep the traveling public safe while successfully performing our daily duties.”