Who’s Handing Security At US Airports? It’s Not the TSA At 11 Airports

5/1/2010 – Who’s Handing Security At US Airports? It’s Not the TSA At 11 Airports

When the Transportation Security Administration was placed into airports in November 2002 it had the primary goal of unifying airport security procedures throughout the United States. More than seven years later, 11 airports around the United States continue to use private security firms for all airport security functions (although the TSA SF-95 form lists 17 airports not handling TSA related complaints).

Some might glance at the list of airports handled by private security contractors and think “What could possibly happen at Tupelo, MS or Roswell, NM?” Well fact of the matter is that these smaller airports feed larger hubs and international airports. Someone seeking to do harm to the travelling public or make a political statement through a terrorist action can enter the travel stream at any point, not just a major airport…

…but for argument sake, lets say minor airports are inconsequential, which they are not, then why is it that San Francisco International Airport, Kansas City International Airport and the 34th Street Heliport (in Manhattan) also have their security handled entirely by third party security contract firms?

Covenant Aviation Security holds the most airport security contracts under the TSA, followed by McNeil Security and Passengers First, as well as some single airport security firms.

While in my experience the private security screeners at San Francisco International Airport and Kansas City International Airport are just professional and thorough as their counterparts with the TSA at Washington DC’s Reagan National Airport, the fact of the matter is that airport security remains fragmented.

Is there a cost benefit to hiring a 3rd party agency to handle airport screening? I don’t see how it is possible. Is there a benefit to the TSA operating at more then 500 airports, and leave 11 airports in the hands of private contract firms?

Like the TSA or dislike the TSA, the agency isn’t going anywhere. If the agency is to be consistent and focus on protecting airline passengers throughout the nation, they must take responsibility for all the airports in the United States…not every airport except 11 that managed to fall into the hands of private security firms.

Happy Flying!


  1. Steve,
    Congress mandated there be a group of airports where screening would be done by private security companies (guess lobbying pays off). The TSA still has regulatory authority and a presence at these airports.

    By the way the 34th Street Heliport along with the Wall St Heliport have shut down screening operations. US Helicopter has ceased their operation at these heliports so the only thing running out of them is tours and charters.

  2. I think all airports and airport security should be private. The TSA is the problem, as with all government programs

  3. EMS

    US Helicopter is planning on returning to he 34th Street Heliport shortly. The private security contractors at airports is a lapse in security and the ability of the TSA to have full control of US airports.

    Happy Flying!


  4. The screeners at MCI seem to still enforce TSA regulations that TSA doesn’t always enforce anymore. I don’t think that makes them better, but more consistent. YMMV

  5. Sorry, Fish, but the opportunity to contract out security and pull responsibility from an irresponsible TSA is one small measure of accountability that we can hold TSA to.

    It’s not much, but it’s something.

    Competition breeds better performance, we’d be better off with more contracted-out security not less. And at least having an exit option means there’s an escape hatch from TSA incompetence.

    Unfortunately they’re still setting the security theatre rules that even private contractors must follow, so we don’t actually get better security. But there’s the potential for better personnel, or for TSA to need to perform to some minimal stanards so as not to embarass themselves losing airport ‘business’.

    Better for security, not worse.

  6. Are we forgetting the main reason why we have TSA. Little private screening contractors are the same ones that allowed weapons aboard the aircrafts on 9/11. Although TSA does have some issues. I’d rather be safe than sorry.

  7. TJ

    The weapons that were used to hijack flights on 9/11 were items legally allowed to be carried on board aircraft at the time. No hijacker sneaked anything on board.

    Happy Flying!


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