Piedmont Triad International Airport will lose a quarter of its Transportation Security Administration screeners as the agency reallocates security personnel ahead of the busy summer travel season.
The impact locally was unclear Monday. TSA officials in Greensboro had no comment on the decision. Ted Johnson, PTI's executive director, said he hadn't spoken with Ernest Howard, the TSA's federal security director for PTI, about the latest changes."I wouldn't want to comment on it until I've talked to the TSA people," he said. "It might be that they're still going to have enough people to cover the morning rushes."
The TSA has successfully reduced screening line wait times since hiring part-time screeners in March, Johnson said.
Those workers are used to augment full-time screening staff during busy flight times.
PTI is slated to lose 42 full-time screeners from a roster of 162, according to the TSA Web site.
"We're hoping to achieve those through attrition in the coming months," TSA spokesman Mark Hatfield said of the job cuts across the country.
Charlotte/Douglas International Airport will lose four of its 324 screeners, while Raleigh-Durham International Airport will add 25 screeners to its 308.
Other airports losing screeners include Pittsburgh International, New Orleans International, Jacksonville International and Cleveland Hopkins International.
The TSA is hiring more than 100 new screeners at some airports that have experienced long lines at checkpoints. Those include Dallas-Fort Worth International, Newark Liberty International, Miami International, New York's John F. Kennedy International, Orlando International and Washington Dulles International.
This is the third time the TSA has reallocated screeners since it staffed all 445 commercial airports with federal workers on Nov. 19, 2002. Previous changes came about because Congress reduced the number of full-time screeners the agency could employ to 45,000 from about 60,000.
Hatfield said the agency will continue to fine-tune staffing levels at airports.
Reaction varied among travelers at PTI on Monday.
"I think it's going to increase lines, increase wait times, increase inconvenience," said Chris Joss of Lexington, who said he traveled through PTI six times on business during the past year. "I question whether it's going to compromise security, as guys are going to feel pressure to get people through."
"They need to have enough security at every airport, but don't cut here in ours to replace elsewhere," said Eric Dalton, also of Lexington. "If they can take money to rebuild Iraq and Iran, they can take money and reinvest it in airports."
Other travelers said a decrease in the number of screeners might not affect the airport at all. One woman said compared to larger cities, the security at PTI almost appears excessive.
"They do a good job here, but it does seem there are a lot of screeners for a small airport," said Felicia Doobrow of Greensboro, a frequent business traveler to New York City and Las Vegas. "You see a lot of standing around."
Nationwide, the TSA aims to get passengers through screening lines in 10 minutes or less.
The agency usually meets that goal at PTI, Johnson said. The flow of passengers has improved since the part-time screeners were hired in March, he said.
In the early mornings at PTI, US Airways, Delta and other airlines have multiple flights leaving at the same time on the south concourse.
Even then, wait times have been reasonable, never longer than 20 minutes, Johnson said.
Rep. John Mica, chairman of the House aviation subcommittee, said the TSA has as many as 5,000 screeners who are not working because they've been called for military duty or are out on workers' compensation. Those workers count against the 45,000-person cap.
"We need to figure out how to deal with that," said Mica, R-Fla.
David Plavin, president of the airport trade group Airports Council International-North America, said the TSA has shown it doesn't have enough experience in airport management to know how to staff screening checkpoints.