Phoenix airport threatens to kick out TSA, hire private (unaccountable) contractors

The administrators of the Phoenix Sky Harbor airport are apparently considering getting rid of the TSA and replacing them with private contractors, similar to the setup at San Francisco International Airport.

The frustration with the TSA comes as the agency has been allowing security lines to grow to three hours long, with no end in sight, apparently in a political game to secure more funding and drive more fliers to sign up for Precheck, which helps fund the agency's operations.

The breaking point was a TSA technical error that caused 3,000 checked bags to be stuck at PHX last Thursday, with airline ground crews complaining that the TSA had "No Plan B" for technical failures.

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The TSA loses 100 screeners a week to attrition, and it's easy to see why. It's harder to imagine a job that would demoralize someone faster.

If Phoenix switches to private screeners, the situation won't necessarily be any better. Private screeners like the ones at SFO lack even the minimal accountability of the TSA, falling outside some Freedom of Information boundaries. I had a brand new camera smashed by a private screener at an SFO checkpoint and discovered that they were fully immunized from any liability for mishandling passenger property.

"We write in the wake of reports of staggeringly long lines expected this summer at Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening checkpoints in airports across the country," wrote Sen. Edward Markey (D) of Massachusetts and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D) of Connecticut.

"We call on airlines to take a smart, common sense step to help thwart this growing problem: stop charging checked bag fees during the coming summer months, the busiest travel season of the year," they wrote.

Since checked baggage fees were a response to the burgeoning fuel costs of 2008, the senators argued, the current decline in oil prices should allow airlines to safely drop them now. The senators wrote that while this would not be a "panacea," it might temporarily ease the strain on airports as passengers would be de-incentivized to overpack large carry-ons that extend the wait times at security checkpoints.

Is Phoenix airport opting out of the TSA? [Lucy Schouten/Christian Science Monitor]

(Image: TSA are you f***ing kidding me? , Sean H)

Notable Replies

  1. Aren't the TSA already unaccountable? I could see private security/contractors as a potential improvement since they would have to show the rest of the country that they're up to snuff and would likely be seen as a testbed to see if it's viable in a post 9/11 security theatre setting.

    Edit: was unaware sanfransisco already switched to private contractors that are... legally immune from accountability as asshats. That... kinda needs to change otherwise there is no incintive to not be dickheads.

  2. private unaccountable v. public unaccountable

  3. You know, I would love to visit the USA as a tourist. I'd stay a long time, too. 4-5 weeks, bring a wad of cash, no problem.
    But with the status quo -afraid to say- in my discriminating, easily frightened little mind, the US are only a touch ahead of Russia. Too much hatred, government sanctioned, or not; too many bigots, too many loonies and too much violent crime.
    Sorry really, but I'd rather stay were I am where it is safe.

  4. I feel that the fly-naked option is the best.

    No carry on whasoever allowed. All items checked.



    Thin but comfortable paper slippers will be distributed at the gate, colour coded by your security rating.

    One square of microfiber measuring 6" x 6", also colour coded by your security rating, but using a different rating system, so that no passenger ever has matching slippers and squares.

    Any passengers observed with coordinating slippers and squares shall be fired upon, so don't hold any other passengers slippers or squares for them if asked.

    The square shall not be used until after boarding. Terminals are standing room only.

    Square use is mandatory after boarding.

    Slippers are biodegradable paper, made from recycled squares, and are free, one pair per flight, but must be returned upon arrival. at your destination terminal.

    Squares are $5.00 apeice, and reusable, but must be returned upon arrival at destination terminal.

    Please fold your square such that residual material from use is folded inside -before- handing your square to the attendant security agent.

    Your residual material from usage shall be harvested and used to add DNA identifiers and preffered menu selections to your passenger profile.

    Frequent Flyers will be allowed preffered security boarding status after 5 samples have been collected. You must adhere to all current policies, but will stand in line with other Frequent Flyers and be allowed to board several minutes before non-Frequent Flyers.

    This isn't a complete rendition of the passengers security policy manual for American Airlines that fell through a hole in the sky onto my lawn, but, as I understand it, these policies have improved civility on future flights.

  5. Except that there really weren't any major failures in the security screening procedures in Boston on 9/11. Everything the hijackers brought on board (box cutters, etc) were completely legal at the time.

    The real failures were systemic to the national security apparatus (NSA, CIA, etc) lack of awareness of Al Qaeda operations and the prevailing mindset of hijacking as a means to a political end. The use of jet airliners as suicide weapon was not seriously considered.

    Hardening the cockpit doors and the realization that passengers will no longer meekly comply with hijacker demands has fixed 99% of the reasons why the 9/11 attacks were successful.

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