It has been reported that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is preparing to axe a special program that allows pilots and flight attendants to almost completely bypass normal airport security checkpoints because abuse of the system has become so rife.
The Known Crewmember (KCM) program was set up in 2011 as a joint initiative between the industry trade group Airlines for America (A4A) and the Air Line Pilots Association, alongside the TSA, to expedite screening for crew members who have already undergone extensive security vetting.
Initially designed for pilots, the program was quickly expanded to flight attendants, as well as a small number of other airline workers who require quick and easy access to secure ‘airside’ parts of the airport.
The KCM program is meant to allow a pilot or flight attendant to simply pass through a checkpoint with virtually zero checks, but random enhanced checks that are closer to what passengers experience have been increased to such an extent that some aircrew already view the program as next to useless.
After several high-profile incidents, airlines, unions and the KCM administrators have issued regular reminders to crew not to abuse the system for fear that the program might be withdrawn altogether.
Last month, an off-duty flight attendant for Mesa Airlines was caught with what is alleged to be 3.33 pounds of fentanyl wrapped around her abdomen as she tried to get through the KCM checkpoint at San Diego Airport last month.
And on at least one occasion since January 2020, a firearm was discovered in an aircrew member’s bag in a foreign country where weapons are highly regulated, the AFA claimed. The crew member was arrested and thrown into prison while the case was investigated.
A memo obtained by Aero Crew News also revealed that in October alone, random TSA screening at KCM checkpoints had discovered “loaded firearms, numerous edged weapons, and the attempted trafficking of 1 kilo of methamphetamine.”
As a result, the TSA is preparing to axe Known Crewmember, ACN reports and instead bring crew member screening entirely under its remit with a new program called Expedited Crew Access (ECA).
The TSA has, however, rubbished the reports, although a spokesperson says the agency has been “exploring options” to modernize the program as part of an initiative to bring KCM fully within the remit of the TSA.
“TSA is continuously working with our aviation partners to ensure Known Crewmember® Program (KCM) compliance,” the agency told us in a statement.
“TSA has been exploring options to continue to modernize operations of the program as it transitions to assume complete oversight of the program capabilities and operations,” the statement continued.
“This transition is will continue over the next few years. TSA will continue to work with our industry partners to seek ways to minimize compliance violations and ensure eligible crewmembers are utilizing the program as it was intended.”
The TSA could look towards Europe, where only on-duty crew members have access to expedited screening. The process currently being rolled out across the continent randomly selects a crew member to undergo a full search or just a quick swab for explosives.
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.