The Transporation Security Administration (TSA) is not about to end a special program that lets pilots and flight attendants skip airport security checks, according to the leader of the largest flight attendant union in the United States.
Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA), which represents nearly 50,000 crew members, dismissed reports that the popular Known Crewmember (KCM) program was being axed over fears that abuse had become too rife.
Pilots, flight attendants, and a small number of other airline employees who have been security vetted and hold KCM status have been able to skip normal airport security checkpoints since 2011 after the program was set up between industry groups and the TSA.
In recent months, however, the TSA has dramatically increased the number of crew members pulled out of the KCM line for random additional checks in an attempt to dissuade people from breaking the rules.
Those random screenings have found crew members trying to smuggle a plethora of banned items, including knives and drugs. In the past, flight attendants have also taken guns through the KCM checkpoint and only been found out when stopped in a foreign country.
In response, it had been reported that the TSA was set to close the KCM program and replaced it with a new program called Expedited Crew Access (ECA) which would require all crew members to undergo some form of physical check.
Nelson, however, has dismissed these reports. “This is not happening,” Nelson tweeted on Wednesday before reassuring worried crew members that information would soon be released and that the TSA “is on top of it”.
“No worries,” Nelson’s tweet finished.
The Association of Flight Attendants, which represents crew members at United, Alaska and Spirit Airlines, amongst others, recently reminded its members to comply with KCM rules, telling flight attendants that the program was a privilege and not a right.
The warning came just days after an off-duty flight attendant was stopped at a KCM checkpoint at San Diego Airport with 3.33 pounds of fentanyl strapped around her abdomen.
Terese Lee White, who worked for regional carrier Mesa Airlines, faces a federal charge of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute following her arrest on October 4. The fentanyl was only discovered after White was made to undergo a routine security check after being selected at random.
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.