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Orlando International Airport, in an effort to improve its customer service, plans to study whether or not to hire someone else to handle passenger screening instead of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
Greater Orlando Aviation Authority board members Dean Asher and Domingo Sanchez were asked to evaluate the airport's customer service by GOAA Chairman Frank Kruppenbacher at the authority's Dec. 5 meeting.
Kruppenbacher is concerned with the impact bottlenecks in passenger screening and reports of thefts by TSA workers may create. After all, 35 million passengers travel through the airport each year and create a $15.2 billion annual impact on the area's economy. "I want them happy and feeling like we care about it," he said.
Asher expects to begin work on the study in January and report back to the board in six months: "We can't sit back and say that because we are a destination and origination airport it doesn't matter what level our customer service is."
Debate over whether private screeners should handle screening of passengers and baggage intensified in September when the Orlando airport was ranked by an ABC News report as No. 11 in thefts by TSA employees. The TSA confirmed that 11 TSA employees at Orlando International Airport were fired between 2002-December 2011 for theft. The TSA said it does not tolerate theft and immediately fires people who steal.
Winter Park's U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Florida, wants the nation's airports to hire private screeners. He backed Orlando-Sanford International Airport's request for TSA permission to hire private screeners under federal supervision for baggage and passenger screening. The TSAapproved the request in June.
Jerry G. Henderson, the Orlando-based federal security director of the TSA who attended the Dec. 5 airport board meeting, would only say "we are addressing it" when asked how the agency plans to improve its image in Orlando.
Kruppenbacher said the TSA is trying to fix the problem by creating an undercover program that involves leaving items at security checkpoints and then checking to see if items are stolen from baggage.
Meanwhile, Phil Brown, executive director of the airport authority, is focused on collaborating with the TSA. "I have told Congressman Mica there are no large airports that converted from federal screeners to private screeners."
Airports in San Francisco and Kansas City have private screeners, but they were put in place before the TSA began screening passengers and baggage.
Converting from TSA to private screeners would be a major transition, and Brown said he isn't convinced there is a good process to do that. "We need to figure out what is best for the airport."
What this means to you:
· Smooth travel through Orlando International Airport keeps tourists coming back, which boosts sales for area firms.