Springfield, MO Airport Wants to Opt Out of TSA


Wednesday, January 26 2011
(Springfield, MO) -- Flying these days comes with a lot more than just getting to your destination.

There are security and bag fees, but what about customer service?

The Springfield-Branson National Airport wants to improve just that by getting rid of the TSA.

The airport wants to opt out of TSA security and go to a private company.

This could affect jobs and those working for TSA, but the airport says it wants to refocus on customers and making flying more enjoyable.

More than 1,000 people a day make their way through Springfield airport security. The pat downs and pre-screening won't ever change, but customer service could.

"You know they're not really personable, going about their business, just trying to move you along," says Doug Stockham of Springfield.

Of course, there are great security agents, but Springfield wants to have a little more oversight.

Right now, the airport has to forward all complaints to the TSA and can't take matters into their own hands.

"We want to have the best customer service we can with the folks," says Gary Cyr, director of Aviation. "If we can do something to tweak that experience, we wish to do that."

The tweak comes in the form of a TSA opt-out application already filed by the airport.

"Which would have our screening of passengers and bags done by a private contractor, not a TSA employee," adds Cyr.

"I think that smaller private companies that have to make a profit can be much more efficient and handle things efficiently and quicker," says traveler William Ritzer. "Better customer service."

But if a private company is hired by TSA, the current jobs will be abolished.

TSA says it will work to place employees in other positions or possibly the private company.

"That's always a concern because we hate to see jobs go away," says Ruby Hodge of Shell Knob.

A decision won't likely be made for another year, but the airport says if it has the choice, private is their preference. All of the federal guidelines will stay the same. You will still have to remove your shoes, get screened, and even patted down.

TSA would oversee the private company financially, so it wouldn't cost the airport any money.

TSA STATEMENT
"All commercial airports are regulated by TSA whether the actual screening is performed by TSA officers or private companies. TSA sets the security standards that must be followed, which includes the use of enhanced pat downs and imaging technology, if installed at the airport."

GENERAL BACKGROUND
The Screening Partnership Program (SPP) enables qualified private vendors to perform the screening of passengers and baggage at airports. All commercial airports have been eligible to apply since 2004. There are currently 16 airports participating in SPP out of more than 450 commercial airports. Under SPP, TSA continues to oversee security at partner airports.

BACKGROUND ON STAFFING
At airports participating in SPP, a TSA Federal Security Director (FSD) and management team are still responsible for overseeing security operations. Contract screeners must meet the same requirements as federal screeners (called Transportation Security Officers, or TSOs) in the areas of hiring, training and performance. Once an airport joins SPP, federal TSO positions are abolished. However, TSA supports provisions that assist federal screeners, including priority for employment with the private contractor as well as measures to facilitate movement to other TSA or federal employment. TSA also adheres to the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA), which states that contract screeners must not be compensated less than federal employees. (Compensation includes salary and benefits).


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