- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Washington Dulles International Airport is among a handful of the nation’s airports getting at least 100 more security screeners to ease long lines at checkpoints as the busy summer travel season approaches.

An improving economy and added flights at the three major airports in the Washington area contributed to the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) decision to put more screeners at the airports.

“The adjustments are being made because the market has changed,” said Chris Rhatigan, TSA spokeswoman.

Airlines are predicting a 12 percent increase in passengers this summer compared with a year earlier.

Dulles Airport’s business is being augmented by 300 flights from the low-fare airline Independence Air, which is scheduled to announce its flight destinations today.

At Baltimore-Washington International Airport, Southwest Airlines and other low-fare airlines are adding flights for the summer.

At Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, the Federal Aviation Administration has given airlines permission to add “slots,” or take-off and landing times, for more flights.

The 100 new screeners for Dulles Airport will bring its total to 645. Reagan Airport will get 25 more screeners, bringing its total to 411. BWI will get 21 for a total of 654.

Officials from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which manages Dulles Airport and Reagan Airport, said they started negotiating with the TSA months ago to adequately staff screening checkpoints this summer.

“Certainly any help will be welcome,” said Tara Hamilton, airports authority spokeswoman.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee on aviation held a congressional hearing last week to review how the TSA would avoid delays this summer. Dulles Airport was among the airports most at risk for delays, according to government witnesses at the hearing.

Last July, 1,645,983 travelers used Dulles Airport, the airport authority reports.

Miss Hamilton said she was uncertain whether the additional 100 screeners would be enough.

“We’ll have to see what impact the new service will have on operations this summer,” she said.

Independence Air officials said the TSA assured them delays at security checkpoints would not interfere with their planned start of flights June 16.

“We are being given a strong sense of confidence from them that this is going to be under control,” said Rick Delisi, Independence Air spokesman.

The TSA is training screeners to use “queue management techniques,” which include leading some people from long lines at security checkpoints to other checkpoints.

When the lines are long, some passengers who activate metal detectors will be allowed to remove metal items from their clothing and walk through the detectors a second time, rather than being pulled aside for secondary screening.

Screeners also are supposed to announce “scripted” messages, telling passengers waiting in lines to remove change from their pockets and what objects they can carry onto the airplanes.

Other airports getting at least 100 new screeners include Dallas-Fort Worth, Miami and New York’s John F. Kennedy International.

Some airports considered overstaffed will lose screeners.

This is the third time the TSA has reallocated screeners since it staffed every airport with federal workers in November of 2002.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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