We have been home and shoveling snow since mid day Saturday. With a cup of coffee in hand and a couple nights rest under my belt I figured I would wrap up the trip and post a bit of a warning to all our traveling friends.
Our trip was great! We had a very restful vacation and were able to accomplish our one goal that we had set when we started. The goal was to find a place for us to live in our camper next year when we travel down for an extended stay. (See post below)
On our return trip we/Linda did have quite the experience with TSA. Here is the story. We took a taxi to the airport and got through the initial luggage check when Linda's name was called over the loud speaker. She checked in and found that she had been chosen for a complete bag inspection. This was no big deal because a complete inspection in Mexico was not very extensive. They did the inspection and then let her board early so it was no big deal.
We landed in LA and made our way through all the rig-a-ma-roll of inspections entering the country, except the final re-entry into the airport through TSA. Linda presented her ticket to the first TSA agent and was told the they needed to refer her to a supervisor. Again she was chosen for a "random" inspection. She was pulled aside and everything she had was extensively searched. When I say extensively, I mean every thing was removed, unfolded, and scrutinized. Her underwear was pulled out and fondled to the point of ridiculousness. As the inspection went on Linda was made to stand and watch everything they did. She could not sit down, she had to go to the bathroom (we had just flown three hours), and all this was happening in front of everyone in the world. The inspection process took over and hour and forty five minutes!
As the inspection went on two guys, not in TSA uniforms, watched. I was getting mad, but knew there was nothing I could do. I talked to the two guys and found that they were there as independent observers documenting the process. They told me that this was a process that was required by the airlines, not TSA. It was random, and that they had to observe six inspections each day. They felt very bad for Linda, but of course, there was nothing they could do. As the process went on I got madder and Linda was losing it.
At about an hour and a half into the search I started calling the airlines, Alaska, to file a complaint. I got connected to a service agent and explained all the facts. She immediately said that Alaska had nothing to do with the process and that it was TSA and that we needed to talk to them. I explained that I was standing with two independent observers hired by Alaska to document the process and they had told me that it was a check required by Alaska. I said that TSA had also told me the same thing. The agent was indignant and slightly rude in her reply that it was TSA and only TSA. I was mad and knew I was getting nowhere so I hung up.
When the inspection was finished TSA walked away. Linda was left with everything from her two bags strewn all over the stainless steal inspection table. She had to repack everything! No one said a word! I was standing away watching and the only thing that happened was one of the independent observer guys came over and said "I think she is done, you can probably go help her repack." He shook his head and left.
We repacked the best we could and walked to the snack shop where the Burch's were waiting. We boarded the plane and went to Seattle.
The next morning we took the shuttle back to the airport and when we checked into the TSA check stop it happened again! Linda was pulled out for inspection.
We both lost it, but this time the TSA were very nice about it and even though she was inspected, they did the process quickly. We found out that it was something that was called for by Alaska, and TSA was alerted by a SSSS designation on her ticket (see photo.) They also said that the inspection should not take one hour and forty five minutes and that it was probably a TSA in training situation. If you get a boarding pass with the designation SSSS be aware that your probably will have to be inspected. Even though the inspection was fast and they were very pleasant about it was an ordeal. Linda said the TSA supervisor checked in with her several times during the inspection. We were not as upset as we were in LA, but it was totally not necessary.
We made it home with no further trouble. Daren and Marci picked us up at the airport and we arrived back home to snow and a warm greeting from Kobi. Today I will call Alaska and see how I am treated. Stay tuned.