Southwest Airlines flight attendants say they should be able to skip full-body scanners like pilots are able to do.
The Transportation Security Administration agreed Friday to let uniformed airline pilots skip the controversial body scans and aggressive pat-downs. The pilots must pass through a metal detector at airport checkpoints and present photo IDs that prove their identity.
But flight attendants must still go through the same security process as other travelers.
Southwest Airlines flight attendant Keenan Ryan said it is "a complete double standard."
"I don't feel that there is any security threat that we can hold as flight attendants that a pilot could not possibly hold as well," Ryan said.
The Transportation Workers Union Local 556, which represents the Dallas-based airline's flight attendants, sent a letter to the secretary of Homeland Security and the TSA asking for the same exemption.
"Enhanced TSA screening of flight crews is not only unnecessary, it is a waste of TSA resources that should be directed at the real security risks," the letter reads.
Thom McDaniel, president of the flight attendants' union at Southwest Airlines, said if pilots can bypass the screening process, so should his members. Ryan agreed.
"We think that we all go through the same background checks," Ryan said. "We're all qualified by initial training. We go through training every year, just like the pilots, so when they didn't have to go through it anymore, it was a slap in the face."
The victory for pilots followed a two-year lobbying campaign by their union leaders that reached a fever pitch in the past two weeks.
John Prater, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, which represents pilots at several major airlines, said the changes were already in the works, but were speeded up by the backlash against the new imaging machines and searching techniques.
The TSA offered few details -- and no specific timeline -- for changes in screening of pilots, which expand a program tested at airports in Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Charlotte, N.C.
The TSA said beginning Friday, pilots traveling in uniform or on airline business could pass security by presenting two photo IDs, one from their company and one from the government, to be checked against a secure flight crew database. Their unions said pilots could skip the pat-downs immediately.
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