FORT WORTH, Texas - American Airlines employees called on Capitol Hill today to urge lawmakers to support universal ID cards and smarter, standardized screening procedures in the nation’s airports for flight crews, agents and other airline ground employees.
The AA employees came to Washington to relate their personal frustrations with an inconsistent and inefficient screening process for uniformed employees. The current process makes it difficult to focus resources on real security threats and leads to unnecessary delays for the pilots, flight attendants and other employees who are the backbone of our air travel industry.
“This is an issue of utmost importance to our employees across the nation who have always put safety and security first, and we ask Congress to take whatever steps necessary to help get this job done. One way to accomplish this could be to appoint a task force that includes representatives of the airlines, labor, and airports, working in cooperation with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), to revise and improve security procedures,” said Will Ris, American Airlines senior vice president of Government Affairs.
“Our goal is a more efficient security process that will allow the TSA to make the best use of available resources and focus its attention on those areas that most warrant its ongoing attention,” Ris said.
The new system should:
* Create a universal identification card for aviation employees using “smart card” technologies and/or biometrics * Establish a centralized database to verify the identity of flight crewmembers and the employees who work in our airports every day * Establish screening portals for aviation employees separate from those used to screen passengers.
“It is gratifying to be in Washington on behalf of the more than 123,000 employees who are building on the legacy of leadership inherent in this airline by championing safety and security,’’ said Jane Allen, vice president - Flight Service. “We are proud to be part of American Airlines whose chairman, Don Carty, was one of the first airline industry leaders to call for smarter, more efficient security measures.”
American employees are sharing their stories with Congress to demonstrate the need for a revised screening system that acknowledges the special role of aviation employees, who are already subject to thorough background and security checks.
Among the hundreds of security screening complaints American employees have cited is one from a DFW-based pilot:
“I am often frustrated and I see crewmembers that are often frustrated with repeatedly being kept at security checkpoints for lengthy periods of time, asked to take off shoes, unbutton belts and sometimes pants while their bags are gone through with a fine tooth comb,” said John Hale, one of American’s chief pilots. “As the person flying the plane, I can tell you that time spent searching pilots would be better spent on people who haven`t passed an FBI background check and don`t have the keys to the cockpit.”
American Airlines applauds the TSA for its efforts to improve airport security and develop smarter identification technology, but recognizes that this process could take a long time.
Therefore, American management and employees urged federal officials to develop and implement new screening procedures for airline and airport employees and to work closely with the industry to achieve these goals.
In a letter to Transportation Secretary Mineta and Undersecretary Magaw delivered on May 22, American employee groups asked federal officials to implement new procedures by Sept. 1: “Simply stated, we already repose a high degree of trust in flight crews and repair personnel to perform their functions with the highest level of safety,” the letter read. “Subjecting these same individuals to the kind of screening that applies generally to airline passengers fails to recognize this important fact and tends to divert precious resources away from the areas of greatest potential threat to the security of our aircraft.”