SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – The Transportation Security Administration will make changes about how it searches passengers' luggage, following a KPIX 5 investigation.
Paul Mehling said the TSA has cost him thousands in replacements and repairs, improperly re-packing his delicate travel bass, almost every time he flies in spite of leaving them detailed repacking instructions.
"If they could just put it back the way they found it there would be no problem," Mehling told KPIX 5 ConsumerWatch.
Since he's required to let them unpack it, he thinks the TSA should be required to repack it properly.
TSA spokesperson Nico Melendez said, "Our screeners are told make sure everything that comes out of the bag, goes back into the bag." But Melendez insists, repacking your luggage the way they found it is not their job.
"Their instructions are to screen a bag to make sure there aren't any explosives in it," Melendez said. "If you want us to take the time and re-pack it properly and re-stow it, your bag probably isn't going to make the aircraft."
When it comes to traveling with special items, like instruments, TSA's own website recommends you include written instructions for repacking.
Yet Melendez admits agents aren't likely to read them. "Our officers don't have time to follow detailed instructions, and frankly they don't know the difference between a love note that somebody put in their bag and instructions."
Public records reveal passengers file claims for about one out of every 10,000 bags. The TSA paid out more than $2.8 million for lost or damaged items between 2010 and 2013.
Filing a claim after the fact doesn't help Mehling, when he arrives for a gig with an unplayable instrument.
KPIX 5 asked Melendez, "You say your officers are not trained to re-pack bags and they're not likely going to follow instructions like this, so what is this gentleman supposed to do other than buy a new bass every 6 months?"
Melendez responded, "TSA has a program called TSA Cares."
The TSA created the program for passengers with disabilities. But in response to our story, they're expanding the program. So now, anyone with special circumstances, including delicate luggage, can call ahead to request assistance.
It's music to Mehling's ears. "We're hoping we can be there when they take it apart - if they even feel the need to take it apart," he said.
TSA has also removed the recommendation on its website to include reassembly instructions, admitting it provides a false sense of security.
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