13 Things You Should Never Say to TSA!


Thank you to Lindsay Tigar for including me in her Reader’s Digest article: “13 Things to Never Say to TSA Agents.”

“Are you looking for a bomb in there?”

Jet-setter and travel blogger Lisa Niver reminds travelers that a TSA agent’s number one priority is safety. It’s a job that most people take seriously and definitely one that should be respected. So while it’s annoying when your bag is searched, remember why it’s being done—and never joke about anything that could put others in danger, like insinuating you have a bomb or a gun. Niver explains that TSA agents have to take every comment into consideration, and since they don’t know you, your “joking” comment may prompt them to investigate to make sure you’re not actually a terrorist.

“Will a twenty help me get through this line faster?”

When you have only ten minutes to board your flight and the next one isn’t until tomorrow morning, thanks to augmented schedules during the pandemic, you may feel desperate to make it. But winking at a TSA agent and slipping him or her a twenty? Niver says that tactic won’t be effective—and it could land you in mega trouble. Much like police officers, TSA agents can’t take any cash in exchange for leniency, and they raise an eyebrow at those who think they could be so easily persuaded. In fact, if you try to bribe them, you could end up getting arrested! 

The curse word of your choice

No matter how many laps around the sun we take, it’s important to remember the golden rule our parents taught us from the start: Treat others as you want to be treated. All too often, frustrated or exhausted passengers will curse at TSA agents when the line is moving too slowly, which is obviously disrespectful. Niver says any type of aggression, even verbal, can send you packing and cause you to miss your flight—or even be put in a holding room for questioning.

“This is ridiculous!”

What would you do if someone told you that your job was ridiculous? You’d probably be offended, right? And if you ever suggest that you could outsmart a TSA agent, they won’t take it well. That’s why Niver urges passengers to put themselves in the agent’s shoes and to try to have patience during the screening process. “They are paid to make sure that you are safe, that they are safe, and that all the passengers in the terminal or on the plane are safe,” she says. “And that may take longer than we would like.” Your outbursts won’t help the situation—and could delay things even further.

Read the full Reader’s Digest article: “13 Things to Never Say to TSA Agents.”

Lisa Ellen Niver

Lisa Niver is an award-winning travel expert who has explored 102 countries on six continents. This University of Pennsylvania graduate sailed across the seas for seven years with Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Renaissance Cruises and spent three years backpacking across Asia. Discover her articles in publications from AARP: The Magazine and AAA Explorer to WIRED and Wharton Magazine, as well as her site WeSaidGoTravel. On her award nominated global podcast, Make Your Own Map, Niver has interviewed Deepak Chopra, Olympic medalists, and numerous bestselling authors, and as a journalist has been invited to both the Oscars and the United Nations. For her print and digital stories as well as her television segments, she has been awarded three Southern California Journalism Awards and two National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards and been a finalist twenty-two times. Named a #3 travel influencer for 2023, Niver talks travel on broadcast television at KTLA TV Los Angeles, her YouTube channel with over 2 million views, and in her memoir, Brave-ish, One Breakup, Six Continents and Feeling Fearless After Fifty.

One response to “13 Things You Should Never Say to TSA!

  1. I just passed through security at Tampa International. One Agent was yelling at passengers who were clearly following instructions. He was switched from ID check to baggage check after scanning and was throwing baggage at a table meant for examination of possible contraband. He was rude as well as rough with contents. In other words he was very unprofessional.

    Since we have been told to remain silent otherwise we may be taken into custody I would like to know what can be said to an agent acting this way. I toyed with the idea of getting his badge# but I felt that might earn me a trip to the detention room.

    Should passengers have to be silent when abused this way or can we speak up?

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