On Tuesday morning, a Philadelphia man was flying out of Philadelphia International Airport to a Midwestern destination on business.
When he got to security at PHL, the man — a media professional — says he presented the City of Philadelphia press badge seen here. Note the expiration date of over a year ago. (We’re obscuring his face and name to protect his identity.)
Instead of putting him through the normal security screening process that the rest of us have to endure, he claims that TSA agents allowed him to use the same line used by pilots, flight attendants and TSA employees.
"No two-block[-long] line, no screening, no bag check, no taking off shoes," he wrote on Facebook, later telling me that it also got him pre-boarding status, meaning he was one of the first passengers to enter the plane.
The press badge seen here was issued in April 2012, and the city actually stopped issuing press badges shortly thereafter.
"They were never officially supposed to be used as press passes at all, but that's what wound up happening," one of the mayor's spokespeople explained to me. "They were supposed to be used just to make it quicker for journalists to get into City Hall. But since this is a public building anyway, and since we realized that people were using them as press passes elsewhere, they were discontinued."
And while your average guy on the street couldn't just walk into City Hall and get a press pass back when they were being issued, the city also didn't put candidates through any kind of rigorous background check. Basically, all you needed was a referral and some official letterhead from a media outlet.
Of course, the man in question had no evil plans, no contraband. He was just trying to game the system and skip the line. "It looks so damn official, I figured it was worth a try," he told me. And it seems to have worked.
The airport spokesperson did not immediately return a call seeking comment. A TSA spokesperson says he's not exactly sure what happened here but suggests that the man was inappropriately allowed into the employee line and then somehow got designated as TSA Precheck. "But even the pilots and other employees are being screened," he insists.
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