As the Transportation Security Administrations (TSA) marks 16 years of overseeing airport security across the United States, the President of the American Federation of Government Employees says air travel has never been safer thanks to the hard work of the administration’s 42,000 federal employees.
But David Cox Sr says that while TSA staffers are working under “stressful and sometimes dangerous conditions,” they shouldn’t be worrying about the threat of “losing their jobs to outsourcing and privatization.”
And while the TSA is currently operating with 4,000 fewer screeners than four years ago, he says they could do an even more effective job with increased staffing levels, better wages and full union recognition.
“This Thanksgiving, let’s be thankful for the officers who risk their lives to keep our air travel safe, and let’s maintain the path forward we’ve made in airport security with our hardworking, dedicated TSA employees,” Cox said.
“The best way to ensure safe travel is to invest in TSA, not privatize it.”
Private contractors now screen passengers at 22 U.S. airports
He refers to the Screening Security Partnership (SSP), which allows airports to contract private security company’s to take over the screening work of the TSA at commercial airports. There are currently 22 SSP airport’s, including San Francisco, Kansas City and Orlando Sanford. The full list can be found here.
One of the biggest private security company’s in the business is Covenant which took over security screening at San Francisco airport in 2002. The company employs around 1,200 personnel at the airport and they claim they can do a better job than the TSA with a lower budget.
Last year, the TSA screened 738 million passengers but the administration has been dogged by controversy over long wait times and its inability to detect weapons and explosives when tested by its own watchdog.
“No hijacked airplanes” since 2011
But Cox is quick to defend the TSA. He fires back at the accusations:
“There have been no hijacked airplanes, explosives detonated on airplanes, or any other aircraft-specific U.S. acts of terrorism since federal employees took over passenger screening after Sept. 11, 2001.”
And he says that even as the country prepares for the onslaught of the Thanksgiving Holiday rush the long queues are nowhere to be seen.
Yet in 2015, the TSA failed 67 out of 70 tests conducted across the U.S. – A huge 95% failure rate. Government testers were able to get through checkpoints with weapons and fake explosives without being stopped by TSA screeners.
Faliure rate around 70-80%
Unfortunately, the situation hasn’t improved much since then – the latest figures put the failure rate at between 70-80% although the TSA refuses to comment on the accusations.
However, a spokesperson for the agency has said its “working aggressively” to improve aviation security and it’s doing it’s “very best to keep flying a secure travel option.” New security procedures which force passengers in “standard” lanes to remove all electronic items larger than a cell phone are currently being implemented across the country in an attempt to improve the situation.
On the 16th anniversary of the TSA’s formation, the agency said it was becoming more “agile, dynamic, and risk-based.” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said the majority of his employees were “dedicated” and worked “tirelessly” to “carry out a very critical and collective security role at airports.”
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.