Angered over a significant increase in secondary checks of pilots using the Known Crewmember program, the American Airlines’ pilots union is suggesting its members deliberately delay flights by using standard security checkpoints.
Pilots Face Increased Secondary Screenings At U.S. Airports
The Known Crewmember program (KCM) allows pilots and flight attendants who have undergone an extensive background check to bypass traditional airport security. Instead, these individuals can enter the secure side of the airport by scanning their badge with a TSA officer then proceeding through the exit once the identity has been verified.
While pilots and flight attendants who use this program have always been subject to random secondary screenings, the number of secondary screenings has allegedly increased dramatically in the preceding months after a number of flight attendants were caught smuggling drugs. It has reached the point that pilots often face “random” secondary screenings more often than not and using a KCM can take more time than using a regular security line.
American Airlines’ Pilots Union Offers A Controversial Suggestion To Pilots
The president of the union representing pilots at American Airlines has a solution: delay flights to make a point. In a memo first shared by Ross Feinstein, Ed Sicher of the Allied Pilots Association (APA), outlines his concern:
“The word ‘expeditious’ can no longer be used in the same sentence as KCM. The KCM ‘privilege’ has become anything but due to the rising number of secondary screenings our pilots are being subjected to on a regular basis. It is not unusual for a pilot to be ‘randomly’ screened six or seven consecutive times. The rate of these screenings has increased to the point where expeditious screening at KCM has been replaced by unpredictable and in some cases lengthy delays.”
He then proposes that pilots begin using regular security lines and not cutting in front of other passengers when doing so (as is customary for flight crews):
“Since KCM no longer appears to be working as it was originally intended, it may be time for pilots to consider forgoing it completely until expedited screening becomes a reality again. Accordingly, I recommend using the standard passenger entry points for security screening when beginning and connecting on our sequences. For those who choose to do so, please do NOT jump in front of passengers who may also be harried and late due to the unpredictable nature of the TSA checkpoints.”
But asking pilots to avoid cutting in line is not out of altruism:
“By temporarily bypassing the KCM screening checkpoints, we will highlight to both the TSA and management the problems that have arisen with the system. Once KCM has been fixed to the point that it is once again a predictable means of expeditious security screening, I will be the first to encourage our pilots to exercise the privilege. Until then, you should consider utilizing traditional TSA screenings and wait in line with our passengers.”
How else will pilots “highlight” the problem to American Airlines and the TSA other than delaying flights. “Oh sorry, the line was so long I could not help it…”
Pilots Are Justified In Being Angry
Personally, I have a lot of sympathy toward pilots on this issue. I think it is more than ironic that pilots are not trusted to go through security without a full check but are then trusted to take the lives of hundreds into their hands every time they enter the flight deck.
There are a few bad apples when it comes to transporting drugs, guns, or other illicit items through checkpoints. Destroying the whole system to find them does not strike me as an effective use of resources. It’s the reason we do not subject everyone to a cavity search when arriving into the country (departing Israel is another story…).
The American Airlines’ pilots union is suggesting members deliberately delay flights by using regular airport security lines and not cutting in line. While that seems a bit draconian, perhaps such a measure is needed to reduce the number of secondary screenings at U.S. airports that render the KCM program worthless. The fact that we entrust a multi-million dollar machine and hundreds of lives to pilots every time they fly makes clear to me that we should trust them to avoid security checkpoints as well.
(H/T: One Mile At A Time)