Newly released data from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) shows that for calendar year 2014, the agency received more than 30,400 complaints and 2,700 compliments.

Pairing this with other studies, the research suggests that for 2014 (at least) between 608,540 and 2,042,700 customers might have been unhappy with their service at the nation’s airports. It is likely that if these individuals were less frazzled, then they might spend more money at the airport than otherwise. Passengers that report high levels of satisfaction tend to spend up to 45% more in retail shops at airports.

This reveals an opportunity for the private sector to work closely with TSA, improving customer service to increase consumer spending (and the resulting jobs and economic benefits it yields) while also advancing the homeland security mission.

Consider some further TSA data from 2014.


The highest complaint rate was at John F. Kennedy International Airport, followed by Miami International (See below). Some rather large airports, like Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport, had relatively low complaint rates. For the 2014 time period, it was 3.95/100.000 passengers, which was only 19.1% (19.1%=3.95/20.71) of the rate for JFK. Additional data on why customers complained is not currently available, which is concerning because customers may have complained about the airport facilities or some aspect of their interaction with TSA—valuable information for airports and security professionals alike.


Using these figures, consider the potential increase in consumer spending at the top 30 airports if customer service were improved.

608,540 customers (low estimate) * $4.09 increase in spending = $2,488,930
3,042,700 customers (high estimate) * $4.09 increase in spending = $12,444,640

According to the US Travel Association, every $1 million in travel spending creates more than 10 jobs. Therefore, between 25 and 124 jobs (not including the multiplier effect) would be created as a result of improving customer service within TSA at the country’s top 30 airports.

Anthony Hutchinson, a Transportation Security Officer at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, cited one example of trying to move people through security quickly and efficiently when he spoke with U.S. News and World Report:

“It adds frustration on the frequent fliers to get through the checkpoint, so it’s hard to try to keep that calm…Because the one thing we love is to have a calm environment … it helps us to see bad people when they are coming through.”

Therefore, it seems important that from a security perspective, a calm environment would allow officers to be able to better differentiate those individuals who require additional adjudication.

And thus, the private sector, working together with TSA on customer service issues, can further homeland security, job creation, and economic benefit.