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TSA Beefing Up Airport Employee Screening Starting This Month

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Following last month’s mid-air A321 explosion after a compromised departure from Sharm el-Sheikh airport in Egypt, the TSA is beefing up security measures in the US — specifically for employees with access to secure areas of the airport. We got our hands on a memo from one major US airline that outlines these increased measures, and also encourages employees to comply (not that they have much of a choice).

The memo in question begins by outlining current procedure:

You’re well aware that the TSA requires airports to conduct random physical inspections of employees entering restricted areas, including identification verification and checks for prohibited items to enhance security at U.S. airports, and we anticipate the random screening process to increase throughout December and during the 2016 calendar year. These random screening protocols vary by time, location, and method to enhance unpredictability. But no matter the time or who you are, it’s part of our responsibility to comply. The importance for safety can’t be underscored enough.

Airport security measures include bomb-sniffing dogs — in public areas and behind the scenes. Photo by San Diego International Airport / Flickr.
Airport security measures include bomb-sniffing dogs — in public areas and behind the scenes. Image courtesy of San Diego International Airport / Flickr.

Then, it shares a few procedural tidbits that employees should already be familiar with, but might not be as obvious to regular passengers:

  • TSA, along with the airport authority and law enforcement, may screen airline and airport employees prior to entering a sterile area or boarding an aircraft at any time. This may include random screening throughout the workday.
  • If you are traveling on personal or company business, you must be screened at a TSA checkpoint before boarding your flight.
  • Pilots and flight attendants who participate in the Known Crewmember program (KCM) may access the sterile area through a KCM screening checkpoint, if available.
  • If you work in a sterile area and plan to travel when your shift is over, you must exit the sterile area and go through TSA screening, with your carry‐on luggage, before going to the gate and boarding your flight.
  • If you park in an employee parking lot and walk or ride a bus to the terminal where you are dropped off inside the sterile area, you must exit the sterile area and go through TSA screening before boarding your flight. This does not apply to pilots and flight attendants assigned to work a flight who have been issued a local SIDA badge, provided the local airport‐specific policy allows. Please refer to the local airport access control rules if you have any questions.
  • If you work at a hangar or other facility at the airport away from the terminal and catch a ride to the terminal, you must exit the sterile area and go through TSA screening prior to boarding your flight.
Passengers passing through a TSA checkpoint. Image courtesy of TSA.
Passengers passing through a TSA checkpoint. Image courtesy of TSA.

It’s interesting to note that even though certain employees can bypass TSA passenger screening when going to work, they must pass through regular checkpoints before traveling, even if they’re flying right after a shift and are already in the “sterile area.” Also that the TSA may conduct random screenings of employees already in the sterile area throughout the day.

As you travel this holiday season, know that the TSA is looking out for your security. You may not agree with screening procedures or the way certain individual agents behave, but the organization as a whole is looking out for your safety. And if you don’t already have it, don’t forget to sign up for Global Entry — you’ll also get access to Precheck every time you fly, making your own airport security experience a whole lot more pleasant.

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