Flight attendants yesterday said a number of airlines are not giving them training or additional time needed to conduct proper security checks.
At least once a day, Atlantic Southeast Airlines flight attendant Brandie Cartwright searches the cabin to make sure there are no weapons or bombs.
She says she doesn’t have enough time to do the job, nor enough training to know what to look for.
“It’s a scary thing to think I’m the one that’s responsible,” Miss Cartwright said. “Trained professionals should be doing this instead of flight attendants.”
After the September 11 terrorist attacks, a Transportation Department task force recommended regular searches of airplane cabins and additional training for employees doing the checks. The task force also said the pilots and flight attendants should not be asked to search the cabins.
Most major airlines have ground crews or other employees conduct the cabin searches. On several commuter airlines, however, that job has fallen to the flight attendants.
Their union, the Association of Flight Attendants, contended yesterday that the searches are not being done properly. To draw attention to the issue, flight attendants at Atlantic Southeast, Atlantic Coast Airlines, Air Wisconsin and three US Airways regional carriers, Allegheny, Piedmont and Pacific Southwest Airlines, began distributing literature at airports to protest what they say is a lack of training and time to do the job.
“In order for this not to be a joke or a security sham, you have to give us the training and you have to give us sufficient time to do it,” said union President Patricia Friend.
Atlantic Southeast spokesman Kent Landers said the airline made its flight attendants responsible for the checks because they are the most qualified to do them.
“ASA flight attendants are uniquely qualified to observe unusual circumstances in the cabin of the airplanes and are highly trained professionals who know appropriate procedures,” Mr. Landers said.
Miss Friend said the union has brought its concerns to officials at several regional airlines, but the problems have not be resolved.
“The flight attendants are concerned,” Miss Friend said. “We think the passengers should be concerned as well.”
Atlantic Coast Airlines spokesman Rick DeLisi said all its employees have been helping with security since the September 11 attacks.
“That includes not only flight attendants but pilots, members of our ramp service team, customer service team and all others who come in contact with our aircraft and passengers every day,” Mr. DeLisi said.
Deborah McElroy, president of the Regional Airline Association, contended that flight attendants are trained before being asked to conduct security searches, and they are given enough time to do the job correctly.
“Passengers can be assured that air carriers have measures in place to ensure the security of the aircraft for passengers and crew,” Miss McElroy said.