Airports Consider Ditching TSA for Private Security

Amidst growing concern over delays at airports around the country, some are considering ditching the Transportation Security Administration and using a private security company.

"For us it has worked. One advantage (is) more flexibility to move around staff, but to be honest, we've never had any TSA screeners to compare it to," said Ian Redhead, deputy director at Kansas City International Airport.

In 2002, Redhead's airport was one of five to participate in a pilot project that allowed private contractors to take the place of TSA employees. To date, 22 airports have utilized the Screening Partnership Program, which still requires the staff to operate under federal oversight and follow TSA procedures.

According to Redhead, it's given staff at KCI more flexibility to deal with high demand or issues on the job.

"In terms of workers, if there are injuries, when you have a government worker versus a private worker, private companies have creative ways to use staff," explained Redhead. "They're going to be paying them, so they've developed different ways of using them at different airports."

But Redhead acknowledges the system is not perfect and KCI does still experience wait times. Of the 22 airports utilizing the private option, Kansas City and San Francisco International Airport are the only two major airports on the list. See the full list here.

Following delays at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport that caused hundreds of passengers to miss their flights this week, TSA has been adding staff and resources there and elsewhere.

According to TSA spokeswoman Carrie Harmon, 1.8 percent of passengers at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport have experienced delays of 20 minutes or more. On average, the airport is seeing 3,264 more passengers per day than last year.

"I don't think privatization is a guaranteed success. I think it's an option that others are looking at, but I don't know it's a guaranteed success," said Redhead. "Privatization is an option, and airports should be allowed to do it."

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