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"Orlando Airport security lines get a hand"


 
Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Airport security lines get a hand
OIA subsidizing TSA screening operation
Private contractors started helping out in Orlando on Monday so TSA officers
can spend more time screening.
By Beth Kassab
The Orlando (FL) Sentinel


Monday marked the first day of a new program at Orlando International
Airport geared toward speeding up long security checkpoint lines before the
official summer travel season kicks off with Memorial Day.

At a cost of about $2 million per year, the airport is paying for
contractors to help Transportation Security Administration officers load
baggage onto explosive-detection machines and perform other tasks so that
the officers have more time to screen luggage and passengers.

"Certainly there was a noticeable difference in the [security] lines for
that peak time," airport spokeswoman Carolyn Fennell said of the program's
start Monday morning, though she said the shorter lines could also be the
result of lower traffic.

TSA spokesman Christopher White said the first day of the program went
smoothly with TSA officers showing the contractors how to properly load the
baggage into the SUV-sized machines, which are located near airline ticket
counters.

"We do anticipate being able to reallocate some resources because of this,"
White said.

In recent months, lines at Orlando International exceeded 45 minutes during
some peak times, prompting U.S. Rep. Ric Keller, R-Orlando, to complain to
TSA Director Kip Hawley about a lack of staffing and inefficiencies in
Orlando.

Hawley said the administration would consider paying for all or part of the
contractors under a pilot program, but still has not made a final decision,
White said.

In the meantime, Orlando airport officials became worried that long lines
would cause headaches for summer travelers and create a public-relations
nightmare, and pledged to spend airport money to hire the extra workers.

On Monday, 26 contractors from Prime Flight Aviation Services, a Nashville,
Tenn.-based firm, started on the job.

Tim Archer, Prime Flight's regional manager, said he expects to increase the
number of contractors to 90, with 30 people on each shift.

The baggage-handler contract is the first of its kind for Prime Flight in
the 51 U.S. airports where it provides a number of contractors for skycap
and other positions.

The company already has an Orlando staff of about 125, Archer said, mostly
skycaps and wheelchair agents for Southwest and Continental airlines.

The workers are required to undergo a 10-year background check as well as
drug screening.

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