You’re going to get more chuckles than travel tips!
Meet the woman behind one of Instagram’s funniest travel accounts – T.S.A.
According to The New York Times, Janis Burl got her start as a Transportation Security Officer (T.S.O.), working for the Transportation Security Administration (T.S.A.) ensuring a safe and healthy travel journey for all those flying the friendly skies. Like most T.S.O. workers, Burl was responsible for manning the metal detectors, routine pat-downs, and confiscating or trashing anything that cannot go on the plane or is larger than 3.4 ounces. In short, she basically upheld the mission of T.S.A., which is to “[protect] the nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce.”
While T.S.A. is known for their no-nonsense nature, about two years ago, Burl got an opportunity to shift positions, taking over as social media manager for the organization. In her new role, she found an opportunity to connect with the public through humor while reminding them of the very important and necessary dos and don’ts of travel, as outlined by T.S.A.
“Nobody remembers what was on the news in the morning, but they’ll remember the joke you told them. If it takes humor to help you remember what you can and cannot do when traveling through security, then humor is what we will provide. Whatever the public is talking about, we want to talk about, and we want to provide the public with a travel tip in the process,” Burl told reporters about her approach to social media management.
The agency’s social account describes itself as the “Princess of Puns,” “Teller of Travel Tips,” and “Admirer of Alliteration,” garnering more than 1 million followers since Burl took over. Last year, the page raked up an impressive 54 million users on Instagram alone, their posts being featured on The Tonight Show and The Today Show. Motivational speaker Simon Sinek has also highlighted T.S.A.’s social account as a model example of how the government can develop rapport with the public via social media.
More popular posts include odd T.S.A. finds like a cat nestled inside a traveler’s clear plastic backpack or the bazooka rocket launcher recently discovered at Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Burl says the posts are siphoned and collated by her six-person Instagram team, the group doing their best to find interesting and trending posts that relate to their overall mission. They not only take content already circulating from the internet, but they also get on the ground feedback from active T.S.A. officers. Burl says people would be surprised what T.S.A. officers uncover on a daily basis and those unexpected items are social media gold for Burl and her team.
“[Posts that do well are] any picture that has something that you would not expect to see every day, whatever that may be. For instance, we just did a post about a mannequin’s parts being folded up and put onto a plane – who’s going to see that every day? Or the guy skateboarding through the airport – literally, while on his phone! – that was priceless. I feel like I should have paid the guy if I could have found him,” said Burl.
Burl has her own personal favorites that she’s found over the last couple of years, as well as highlights from her own experiences as a T.S.O. that she’ll never forget, but she really just hopes to give the public as much information as possible to help traveling be as easy and safe.
In addition to her six person Instagram team, she also has 12 other team members that specifically respond to questions on Facebook and Twitter. There, they run “Ask T.S.A.,” a Q&A type set up where anybody, even those waiting in the security check lines at the airport can ask questions and receive on the spot answers. The team has an under two minutes response time and has found that it is particularly helpful.
To get your T.S.A. questions answered and keep up with all your travel tips, follow them here.
Thank you for all the work you do, Ms. Burl! You are appreciated.
Photo Courtesy of Rosem Morton/The New York Times