Charlotte airport considers dropping TSA at checkpoints

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte airport officials are considering using private security contractors at checkpoints as concerns over long lines mount.

An airport spokesperson said officials are considering "all options," including the Transportation Security Administration's Screening Partnership Program. The program allows airports to apply for private security instead of using government workers at checkpoints, commonly known as privatization.

Proponents of the program say flexible staffing with private companies allows for greater efficiency.

"The current situation is pretty unacceptable, and so that leaves you looking at alternatives," said Peter Schwarz, a UNC Charlotte professor who has studied the airline industry.

Currently, only 22 airports across the country take part in the SPP. Some of the largest airports are in cities including Kansas City and San Francisco.

Officials at Seattle Tacoma International Airport said as recently as last month that they are considering privatization in the wake of the long line frustrations.

Charlotte airport officials told reporters that the situation that unfolded on Good Friday was a "fiasco." It's estimated that 600 people missed flights as long lines snaked from one checkpoint to the next.

Aviation Director Brent Cagle is so concerned about the reduction in TSA staffing levels that he wrote a three-page letter to the head of the TSA, demanding a freeze in cuts.

"We are very concerned that the service level is slipping," Cagle said.

"I believe we have enough resources. We have enough people to staff the security checkpoint," Kevin Frederick, federal security director for the TSA in Charlotte, said.

Experts expect the situation to worsen during peak travel times in the summer months.

"Tempers are going to flare this summer. This just isn't a sustainable situation," Schwarz said.

Meanwhile, two U.S. senators said they have the solution to reducing the long waits, claiming that airlines need to get rid of checked luggage fees.

The senators said passengers who use checkpoints near airlines with bag fees have 27 percent more carry-on bags, and are asking 12 airlines to drop the fees.

But those airlines said they'll have to raise fares to compensate.

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