Because of the frequent abuse of the system, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is getting ready to eliminate a unique program that permits pilots and flight attendants to completely avoid standard airport security checkpoints altogether.
In order to speed up screening for crew members who have already undergone thorough security vetting, the TSA and the industry trade association Airlines for America (A4A) together established the Known Crewmember (KCM) program in 2011.
The program was initially created for pilots, but it was quickly expanded to include flight attendants and a small number of other airline employees who need quick access to secure areas of the airport that are located “airside.”
The KCM program is designed to let a pilot or flight attendant pass through a checkpoint with essentially no checks, but because random enhanced checks that are more similar to those that passengers encounter have been increased, some aircrew already consider the program to be virtually useless.
An off-duty flight attendant for Mesa Airlines was arrested last month as she attempted to pass through the KCM checkpoint at San Diego Airport with 3.33 pounds of fentanyl wrapped around her abdomen.
Additionally, at least once since January 2020, a crew member’s suitcase included a firearm in a country where the possession of firearms is strictly controlled, according to the AFA. The crew member was detained and imprisoned while the case was being looked into.
A memo obtained by Aero Crew News also revealed that in October alone, random TSA screening at KCM checkpoints had discovered “loaded firearms, numerous edged weapons, and the attempted trafficking of 1 kilo of methamphetamine.”
As a result, the TSA is getting ready to discontinue Known Crewmember, according to ACN, and replace it with a new program dubbed Expedited Crew Access that will bring crew member screening completely under its purview (ECA).
As the title indicates, crew members may just undergo a partial passenger screening process, perhaps more equivalent to TSA PreCheck. It might also resemble the screening procedures that all foreign crew members now transferring through American airports must through, which have no restrictions on liquids.
The TSA can also take inspiration from Europe, where expedited screening is only available to crew members who are on duty. A crew member is randomly chosen as part of the procedure that is currently being implemented across the continent to either undergo a thorough search or only a fast swab for explosives.
Although the ECA program may be upsetting for staff members who have always enjoyed relatively quick access through TSA checkpoints, it should still be an improvement over what the majority of passengers encounter on a daily basis.