Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Flight Attendants Also Get Exemption from Intense TSA Searches

Last Friday, pilots were happy to learn that the TSA had backed off a ridiculous policy of subjecting them to intense security searches. Ridiculous, of course, because a pilot flying an airplane doesn't need a corkscrew to take control and crash it.

At first, indications were that pilots would get a free pass -- but at least in the initial rollout of more sensible security rules for pilots who have verified IDs, it seems that the change is merely that pilots aren't routinely subject to the new, invasive body patdowns associated with the much-hated body-scan machines. Instead, it seems, they only need to go through metal detectors.

Trying to make sense of this is daunting. Suffice to say, there appears to be a process in motion to designate flight crews as so-called trusted travelers who are not automatically assumed to be potential terrorists, but who are nevertheless subject to basic checkpoint search.

Given that, then, there is no compelling reason not to include on-duty flight attendants in exemptions, given that a flight attendant with verified ID is certainly presumed not to present an imminent danger. Though, as I said the other day, a pilot can crash a plane. All a flight attendant can do is crash the drinks cart.

Nevertheless, any glimmer of common sense is welcome. The TSA, which seems to change its story by the day, has now also included flight attendants in the new rules. Flight attendants and pilots will be treated the same at the checkpoints. Both groups must show ID (which will supposedly be matched against operations data supplied by the airlines), and go through a metal detector. If that sets off an alarm, they may still get a pat-down in some cases. The rules apply to pilots and flight attendants who are in uniform and working.

In development is a more comprehensive system for flight-crew security called CrewPASS, a trusted-traveler-type system being developed for the TSA by a private company. It's now being tested for use by pilots in Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Columbia, S.C.


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