Let’s talk about security screening for airline and airport employees. I don’t write nearly as much as I used to about my days in the airline business. With a few exceptions, not including my annual 9/11 post, I would say I don’t write about my experience working for an airline more than once a month, if that. That’s probably intentional on my part, but it’s also something I intend to change starting right about now. You’ve no doubt heard about the airline employee who was recently arrested for smuggling guns. There was, of course, more to the story than one rogue employee bypassing standard security screening and smuggling guns. (Image courtesy of Shutterstock)
Airline and airport employees, like the overwhelming majority of people, are honest and upstanding citizens. They want to do the right thing. They want to serve their customers. Most of all, they want a safe air transportation system – they and their families use that system afterall. However, as in most walks of life, there are one-off people who slip through the cracks. They do things like smuggle guns and who knows what else around the security checkpoint.
I admit – I used to wonder if one of our biggest security weaknesses lay in employee screening. As I said, the overwhelming majority of airline and airport employees are honest, but what about the few that aren’t? Air-tight background checks are one answer, but is anything really air tight? Apparently not in the case of the gun smuggling employee who badged himself into the secure area of an airport with a bag full of guns. Frankly, the idea of someone with ill-intent offering a sack full of cash to the wrong not that highly paid person in exchange for walking a bag into the secure area is troubling.
What’s the Answer?
Admittedly, if I knew the whiz-bang answer to the question of what to do about this vulnerability I probably would be retired to a sunny island somewhere. I’m certainly not going to suggest that every single airline and airport employee be sent to the passenger screening checkpoint for the multiple times per day they transit back and forth between the non-secure and secure areas. But it is time for a discussion about what to do to make things more secure. If I, as a “known traveler,” am subject to random rejects over to the “routine” security area, I don’t know why airline and airport employees who access secure airport areas shouldn’t be subject to something similar. Maybe it’s time for the “roving” TSA folks who re-screen passengers at the gate that have already been screened once to be re-deployed to random screening elsewhere? Putting my airline hat on for a moment, I recognize what a royal PITA that might be for some perfectly honest folks just trying to do their job. What I really want to say is that it’s time for some serious thought and discussion on a fix for this. What say you?
-MJ, January 12, 2015