TSA Screening Partnerships at 22 Airports Can Lead to Shorter Security Lines

Private screening contractors are often more efficient and aren't subject to government shutdown restrictions.
Elina Geller
Joe Cortez
By Joe Cortez and  Elina Geller 
Edited by Meg Lee

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Although the Transportation Security Administration is responsible for ensuring American air passengers remain safe, it doesn’t directly screen every passenger. Some airports contract and operate with private security teams, which complete the same screening tasks as TSA employees but aren't federal employees.

That means that every airport isn't subject to government shutdown-induced delays.

Here's why you might want to start flying out of San Francisco; Orlando, Florida; or Kansas City, Missouri.

What is the TSA Screening Partnership Program?

Under the TSA Screening Partnership Program, private companies can bid on screening jobs for airports under supervision of the federal security director.

There are some advantages for airports to opt for a Screening Partnership Program. Instead of being beholden to federal staffing guidelines, private companies can set their own staffing targets and hire as many screeners as needed. In addition, these companies can hire contractors to do nonessential jobs, like moving bins or reminding passengers of checkpoint requirements.

How many airports have TSA screening contractor companies?

Currently, 22 airports participate in the Screening Partnership Program. The largest airports with private security screeners include:

  • San Francisco.

  • Orlando-Sanford.

  • Kansas City.

  • Atlantic City.

  • Sonoma County.

Find the entire list on the TSA website.

While all screeners operate under the airport federal security director (who's a federal employee of the TSA), the screeners themselves are hired and managed by private security companies. Regardless, all checkpoint screeners, while not government employees, are tasked with a common mission handed down by the TSA.

Are screening contractors affected by government shutdowns?

Because screeners hired by contractors are private employees instead of federal employees, they're not subject to a government shutdown. They continue to get paid by their employers and continue to work based on their agreements with the screening companies.

For example, during the government shutdown in 2019, the San Francisco International Airport didn’t experience any terminal checkpoint closures due to a lack of staffing, unlike other airports.

Are screening contractors held to the same standards as the TSA?

Employees of companies in the TSA Screening Partnership Program are held to the same standards as their federally employed counterparts. Those who apply for a screener job must complete the same background checks and medical examinations as TSA-employed screeners. Additionally, everyone employed in a screener job must attend training at the TSA Academy, located at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia.

When screening passengers, and during machine-assisted and manual pat-down-style security checks, all screeners must adhere to the same procedures.

» Learn more: TSA PreCheck vs. Clear

Where do I report a problem with a screening contractor?

If you experience a problem with a screening contractor during the screening process, you can file your complaint through the TSA website. The complaint will be registered with the TSA and may be investigated by both the TSA and the private security contractor.

If you're injured or your property is lost or damaged during the screening process, you might consider filing a claim against the private screening contractor. In this case, you must file your claim directly with the contractor for resolution. You can find a full list of contractor claims forms on the TSA website.

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