TSA at New Jersey airports increasing language outreach to travelers

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Language nameplates identify TSA officers who speak other languages
Local Press Release
Tuesday, June 16, 2015

NEWARK, N.J. – A new passenger-friendly program that identifies foreign languages spoken by Transportation Security Administration officers is helping ease the anxiety of travelers whose primary language is not English.  This passenger-friendly effort is aimed at improving the security checkpoint screening experience for travelers.

The foreign language nameplate program has TSA officers wearing nameplates that indicate that they speak any of 24 languages in addition to English. Approximately 5,000 TSA officers have volunteered to wear the nameplates and already they are assisting travelers in their native languages. At Newark Liberty International Airport, so far 52 officers have requested the foreign language nameplates.

“We see this language access program as an extended courtesy to the passengers we serve,” says Tom Carter, TSA Federal Security Director for New Jersey. “These nameplates raise awareness that assistance is available to passengers while improving our interaction with travelers from all over the world who are flying out of New Jersey.”

This additional customer service element already has helped hundreds of travelers at Newark Liberty International Airport, Trenton-Mercer Airport and Atlantic City International Airport, Carter says.

Not only do the nameplates raise awareness that the language outreach is available to passengers, but they have also increased visibility to fellow TSA officers that some of their colleagues can be called over to assist a passenger who may need some clarification in another language.

When a TSA officer can communicate in a passenger’s native language, it can help ensure that they understand what TSA is requesting of them. Additionally it can be “reassuring to a passenger if something doesn’t go exactly as they expect and there is someone who can explain it to them in their language. Overall it improves our interaction with passengers,” Carter says.

The language skills of TSA officers have already proven to be helpful when explaining the checkpoint process or if a passenger’s carry-on bag is suspected of containing prohibited items. “The foreign language assistance is invaluable when a passenger alarms the checkpoint scanner and requires a bag check or a pat-down,” Carter says.

The nameplates carry any of these 24 languages: Arabic, Cambodian, Cantonese, Farsi, French, German, Greek, Haitian Creole, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, Thai, Turkish, Urdu and Vietnamese.  The most popular language nameplates requested by TSA officers are Spanish, Tagalog, French, German and Italian.

The program is strictly voluntary. Many officers were already utilizing their multi-lingual skills at the checkpoint prior to the launch of this program.  However, wearing the language nameplate for the public to see raises the visibility and further recognizes this special linguistic talent.