Police officers at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport are manually running parking tag numbers after several employees were busted with bogus parking passes.
In the last 14 months alone, airport police have confiscated at least 45 bogus parking tags from employees. They caught 10 in 2008, and 37 in 2007.
The people caught with fake parking permits include airport workers who staff the shops and restaurants, as well as flight attendants, mechanics and pilots.
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Larry Wansley, an airport security consultant who was formerly chief of American Airlines security and a former FBI agent, said the parking scheme is a distraction airport police don't need at a time when airports are on heightened alert for security threats.
"It just takes away from the resources they could be devoting to really more important issues," Wansley said.
Some of the workers argued the parking system is unfair and encourages workers to look for a way around it.
One pilot, Jerry Manak, said he bought a pass from another worker, thinking it was legitimate. Manak later found out it was fake. Airport police confiscated the tag and towed Manak's car while he was away on a trip. He returned to find a ticket and had to pay a $700 fine to get his car out of the impound lot.
Manak said he bought the pass because the airport wouldn't give him one, even though he routinely flies out of DFW.
It turns out, the airport will not issue an employee a pass if he or she works for an airline that does not help pay for the employee shuttle bus service.
Manak and other workers said it leaves them with few options. They either have to pay regular passenger rates of up to $17 a day or have someone drop them off every time they go to work.
"If you're an employee with some kind of ID who works out of DFW, then I think the parking passes should be available to that person," Manak said.
Other employees who qualify for a pass complain the cost is simply too high. The passes run between $250 to $500 a year.
Airport officials said the parking passes are designed to help fund the shuttle service and rates are set through negotiations with the airlines and other businesses on the airport property. While they admit policing the bogus passes is a distraction, the airport said it's no bigger a distraction than dealing with speeding tickets or parking tickets on airport roads.
The bogus passes do not present a direct security threat, because the parking tags do not allow employees access into any secure part of the airport.