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Pilots Fury Over TSA Checkpoint Screening Procedures, Threaten to “Overwhelm” Passenger Security Lanes

Pilots Fury Over TSA Checkpoint Screening Procedures, Threaten to “Overwhelm” Passenger Security Lanes

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The two largest pilot’s unions in the United States have become so frustrated with TSA airport security procedures for aircrew that they have threatened to ‘overwhelm’ normal passenger security lanes, which could result in delayed and cancelled flights.

The warning came in two separate letters to TSA administrator David Pekoske from the Allied Pilots Association, and the Air Line Pilots Association after the Department of Homeland Security confirmed that it was taking over an expedited screening program for aircrew.

The existing Known Crewmember (KCM) program allows aircrew and other designated airline employees to skip past normal TSA security lines but concerned with rule violations, the TSA has dramatically increased the number of random enhanced screenings that crew are subjected to.

Captain Ed Sicher, president of the Allied Pilots Associations which represents pilots at American Airlines, claims its not unusual for pilots to be ‘randomly’ selected for enhanced security checks six or seven times in a row.

“Unforuntaly, the word ‘expeditious’ can no longer be used in the same sentence as KCM,” Captain Sicher told the union’s members in an internal memo. “The KCM privilege has become anything but due to the rising number of secondary screenings our pilots are being subjected to on a regular basis,” Sicher continued.

Created in 2011 as a joint initiative between industry trade group Airlines for America (A4A) and the Air Line Pilots Association, the KCM program was designed to expedite screening for crew members who have already undergone extensive security vetting.

Sicher says airlines have come to rely on KCM to shorten turnaround times between flights because management expects crew to “breeze through security screenings”, but this is no longer guaranteed due to the exceptionally high number of random screenings.

Crew members are becoming increasingly concerned that a decision by the TSA to take full control of KCM and rename it Expedited Crew Access (ECA) could spell even more trouble.

As part of a years-long process to update KCM, the TSA is reportedly no longer working with the ALPA union, infuriating its president Captain Joseph DePete who told Pekoske that the decision “flies in the face of common sense”.

While the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) continues to reassure its members about the future of KCM, pilots are apparently seething over the plans.

Although there have been headline-grabbing examples of KCM violations, DePete says the total number of violations is less than 1 percent of all KCM screenings. Meanwhile, Sicher points out that only 17 infractions by AA pilots were identified last year – one was down to a pilot bringing his child’s car seat through a TSA checkpoint.

“Not minor,” Sicher admits, “but hardly a reason to take an estimated 1.5 million minutes of time in additional screenings from the rest of our pilots last year”.

In response, Sicher is calling on AA pilots to simply stop using KCM checkpoints and instead line up behind other passengers in the normal TSA queue. Sicher says he won’t drop that advice until KCM “has been fixed”.

DePete warns that if pilots should start abandoning KCM and start using normal TSA lines to make a point, the system could be significantly overwhelmed.

A spokesperson for the TSA did not directly address the concerns raised by Sicher and DePete but said the agency was exploring options to modernize KCM and that the process would take several years to complete.

“TSA is continuously working with our aviation partners to ensure Known Crewmember Program (KCM) compliance,” the agency told us in an emailed 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.”

“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.”

View Comments (20)
  • What TSA is doing to the flight crews is absurd. This is typical of what happens when an entity is free to do whatever they want to do, with zero regard to the impact of their actions or lack of actions to the public. Using common sense to deal with this situation is not an option apparently. It is a reflection of what kind of people are at the top of TSA (the front line crews are just following instructions mandated by their employer and must do to keep from getting fired).

    • What is TSA doing? They’re in charge of airline security. They gave crews a pass and the crews showed that they couldn’t be trusted. It would be negligent NOT to do anything.

      • Because less than 1% had a problem? And one incident involved a baby car seat (wtf?).
        The TSA is there to find weapons, a task they fail 95% of the time when they are tested!
        Then are NOT there to look for drugs (which should be legal-can you say coca tea? Or original Cocaine Cola?) and they’re NOT there to steal people’s cash.
        They fail miserably at their one original task. How they show their faces in public is beyond me.
        They’re on a power trip and they need to be put in their (last) place!

        • I stopped reading after drugs- which should be legal. You’re an idiot. When you say “last” place… what are you going to do? Start killing TSA people.
          You might want to lay off the booze before you get yourself into trouble.

      • “Less than 1%” sounds like the same failure rate as the general public. Seems like they need the same screening as the general public.

        Crews can transport contraband just as easily as anyone else. Just because a pilot can crash a plane doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter if they bring a gun or other contraband through security. Anyone can be a mule, and a weapon makes any bad actor much more dangerous.

        Those with security clearances are prescreened. Can they skip the line? How about PreCheck flyers? Why not military staff? Or doctors?

        Screen everyone, or no one. (Those who want no screening are nuts)

        • Sweet, let’s have aircrew go through the same screening that everyone else does and see how that affects your on-time departures! And before you get cute and say that they just need to get there earlier, remember, they are on the clock for their duty day as soon as they show up for their shuttle from their hotel. Now what ya got…,that’s right…nothing.

        • Also, they have to go through security every day and every time they have to go to another country and then fly again. Your opinion is rooted in ignorance.

      • If crew members have been vetted extensively, why the hell would they need to be further scrutinize by TSA? As someone who flies frequently, I have zero problem with crew not being patted down as if they are terrorists. What are you so afraid of you “feel” threatened by your flight crew? Do you even fly? It used to be they had their own line, ushered through metal detector and sent on their way. Why is that so unfathomable to you?

    • Dawg, the number of pilots that have been caught with loaded firearms, switchblades, etc. that they breezed right through KCM is the reason this is happening. It’s their fault, and they’re being little bitches about it.

  • I stopped flying 9 years ago. The planes are to packed and cramped anymore. I’ll be damed if id sit through a flight being canceled. The tsa people are not very good and its just not worth all the aggravation. Its like standing in a que at disney.

  • Only 1 percent of KCM violated the rules. How would you be reacting, as the union chief pilot, if you knew 1 percent of the passenger behind you were able to get weapons past TSA?

  • Thank goodness they are being extra diligent with the pilots. We wouldn’t want them to accidentally get something through security that could allow them to take control of the aircraft.

  • The TSA should be abolished. Just another government agency accountable to no one which will try and grow its power. I’ve traveled the world and the TSA is the most ridiculous security agency I have encountered.

  • TSA is a joke. They are unequivocally bad at their jobs. Equipment is inconsistent and the caliber of people they hire is pretty sad lately. The only reason they exist at this point is to pad the coifers of Homeland security.

  • Remember 911? In that case they took ovet a plane in the air but that doesn’t mean itvwill happen that way next time. Any responsible pilot understands the extreme importance of airport security. Any pilot attempting to hinder the job of TSA needs to be arrested to show this is serious. All people who go beyond the security point needs properly vetted no matter ifvthey are a baggage handler, flight attendant, terminal personal, mechanic, passenger, air martial or pilot plus anyone i did not mention. Its a matter of national security

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