Sunday, August 28, 2005
Airport screeners to leave earlier
Saturday, August 27, 2005
By Kyla KingThe Grand Rapids Press
GRAND RAPIDS -- Federal officials have given airlines at Gerald R. Ford International Airport a heads-up that their screeners will start leaving after the last departing flight, instead of hanging around until midnight.
Which means the airlines will have to take extra steps to avoid an incident like what happened last week, when a large group of passengers from a Delta flight were trapped on the concourse behind a locked gate for some time.
The federal Transportation Security Administration and airport officials say it's an airline's responsibility to make sure their employees open the gates after the screeners leave so passengers can get to the baggage claim area.
"I have no responsibility for arriving flights. It's just not what my screeners get paid to do," said the airport's TSA Federal Security Director John Mumma.
The federal screeners check the baggage and personal effects of departing passengers.
"There's no reason to keep somebody at the airport getting paid with federal tax dollars when there's nothing going on," Mumma said.
The terminal opens around 3:45 a.m. each day and closes each night about one hour after the last flight has arrived, usually around midnight. But federal screeners say their job is done when the last departing flight leaves around 10 p.m., so they are free to close the gates and leave. Passengers on arriving flights already have been screened by federal employees at their departure airport.
Airport spokesman Bruce Schedlbauer agreed with Mumma's assessment.
"It is the airline's responsibility to make arrangements for their customers to be allowed off of the concourse after the gates are locked," he said.
"This (recent case) might be the second case of this occurring ... it's typically not a problem."
Details of the incident are slim, but officials for Delta Connection ComAir, the airport, and the TSA acknowledged a group of passengers were trapped for some time behind a closed concourse gate.
ComAir spokeswoman Katie Moser would not say how many passengers were on the flight, or verify specifics of what happened, but said the airline was "going to work collaboratively with the airport and TSA to find a logical resolution."
"We do have people there staffing the station .... from our perspective, it really is more of a collaboration so we're obviously going to have to work with them on this a little bit more," she said.
Moser said the flight in question, which now arrives at 12:10 a.m., is being eliminated next month as part of across-the-board cuts because of decreased demand in the fall.
Mumma said starting in September, TSA screeners will be sent home around 10 p.m. instead of midnight because of schedule adjustments.
"I have a finite number of people," said Mumma, who supervises about 112 screeners. "At peak times we're stretched, so it make sense to take a couple of people who are working later when nothing's going on and push them back."
Posted by The Rogue Jew at 8/28/2005 12:31:00 PM