TSA Screening Partnerships: The Reason Why Some Airports Don’t Have Long Security Lines

Joe CortezJan 16, 2019

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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.

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

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

What is the TSA Screening Partnership Program?

Some airports operate with private security teams, which work to complete the same screening tasks as TSA employees but are not federal employees. 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 they believe are needed. In addition, privatizing security can utilize contractors to do non-essential 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 International Airport

  • Orlando Sanford International Airport

  • Kansas City International Airport

  • Atlantic City International Airport

  • Charles M. Shultz – Sonoma County Airport

The entire list can be found on the TSA website.

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

Are screening contractors affected by the government shutdown?

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

At the 22 airports participating in the Screening Partnership Program, all operations appear to be business as usual. For example, San Francisco International Airport has not announced any terminal checkpoint closures based on a lack of staffing at their airports at the time this article was published.

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

Employees of TSA Screening Partnership Program companies 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 at Glynco, Georgia.

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

Who do I talk with if I have a problem with a screening contractor?

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

But if you need to file a claim against the private screening contractor, you can’t go through the TSA for consideration. Instead, you must file your claim directly with the contractor for resolution. A full list of contractor complaint forms can be found on the TSA website.

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