TSA Passenger Support Specialists (PSS) are like Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. They are the shining light for many passengers as they make their way through security screening at the airport.
Like the reindeer with the glowing red nose who came through in the clutch on a foggy night, PSSs have special traits and training to provide an invaluable service to passengers who need screening assistance. Problem is, not many people know to access them.
With a desire and heart to go above and beyond their screening duties, PSS officers volunteer to support a wide range of passenger needs, becoming advocates for travelers and their families who need additional attention.
“The PSS program provides real-time, in-person screening assistance for individuals from diverse population groups, while maintaining security effectiveness and quality customer experience,” explained PSS National Program Manager Julie Bahrami. “By helping passengers who need assistance through the screening process, our PSS officers help maintain security and ensure a more positive screening experience.”
It’s recommended passengers who need a little extra help call the TSA Cares helpline toll-free at 855-787-2227 at least 3 days before a flight, just as passenger Michelle Cardona did.
“I can’t speak highly enough about the TSA Cares program,” said Cardona, whose son, Preston, has Down syndrome. “It has been a game changer for us! Such an upgrade in our lives!”
Cardona provided flight information and shared Preston’s needs with a person at the TSA Cares call center who passed along her request to their departing Ohio airport PSS representatives.
On previous trips, Preston’s hypersensitivity to noise has set off his fight or flight instincts, making his checkpoint experience rough for him and his family.
During the family’s recent trip, a PSS officer assisted him through the checkpoint in real-time, where he calmly and confidently accessed the checkpoint with dignity. Preston didn’t get a “free pass” through security, but rather experienced an effective and efficient checkpoint screening which met his and his family’s needs.
“Preston was quickly moved through the crowd,” said Cardona. “He knew he was being supported and a quiet spot was made available soon which helped him endure and focus through the task with success.”
The best way passengers can access the expert help of a PSS is to call ahead of their travel date or fill out the Request for TSA Cares Assistance form and submit ahead of their flight, but if a passenger finds them self at the checkpoint and are unable to complete the screening process as a result of a medical condition, disability or simply need specialized assistance, passengers are encouraged to ask a supervisor if a PSS is available.
If a passenger needs screening assistance and is confused about how to get through the checkpoint calmly, do what Michelle Cardona did. Call TSA Cares and let a qualified specialist be there in the clutch for you.
“I no longer dread booking a trip, worried about how Preston will fare,” said a relieved Cardona.
“I feel you have removed the struggles for him and this whole family can now access travel. I even ordered passports.”
By Karen Robicheaux, TSA Strategic Communications and Public Affairs