9 Investigates: TSA agents at OIA received 1,000 complaints in a year

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Transportation Security Administration agents at Orlando International Airport received 1,000 complaints in 2014, according to information obtained by Eyewitness News.

Eyewitness News requested the complaints as federal lawmakers started pushing to privatize the TSA. It took more than a year for Eyewitness News to receive the complaints, and Investigative reporter Daralene Jones uncovered behavior by the TSA officers that upset travelers.

Liz Davis told Eyewitness News that she had a complaint about her daughter’s experience with security. Her 10-year-old daughter wears a medical brace on her hand.

“They actually tested her fingers and all this stuff. So, it was a bit extreme in my opinion for a 10-year-old,” Davis said.

Davis wasn't upset enough to file a complaint, but 9 Investigates uncovered nearly 300 total complaints were filed directly with the airport during 2014. 9 Investigates initially requested a copy of all complaints filed against the agency in January of 2015; the reports were received last month.

TSA categorizes the complaints as discourteous treatment, rude officers, and a lack of screening and inappropriate contact with travelers.

“We'll pull video tape and if there's an issue with the individual, we'll hold them accountable. But a lot of times, there's a lot of frustration with people arriving late to the airport, not understanding our process,” TSA Director Jerry Henderson said.

Another 1,500 travelers called in to a TSA call center based in Kentucky, in 2014.

Documents showed a majority of those travelers suspected TSA officers stole items from their luggage or caused damage to it; others complained about how their personal belongings were treated during screenings.

“(We) don't really want any complaints, at all, so some of the things we've done is really partnered with the airport. We've done a lot of customer service training,” Henderson said.

According to its website, OIA handles 39 million travelers each year. So, the number of complaints represents a fraction of the travelers going through the airport. During 2014, the same year for which Eyewitness News reviewed complaints, the agents also received 1,200 letters of praise, which in some cases led to on-the-spot awards.

“I know, this is their job, and security is important, so it's a balance, you know,” Davis said.

The director told Eyewitness News the agency also recognizes that it needs to work on how special- needs passengers are treated, so  training has been increased in that area.

In its own survey, last year, TSA found 60 percent of passengers were satisfied with the courtesy of agents. The agency recently won a state award for its leadership development and best practices.