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Orlando Airport Officials Vote to Keep Federal Screeners

The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority voted Wednesday at its board meeting to keep federal screeners and submit them to a quarterly review. Photo: Renata Sago.
The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority voted Wednesday at its board meeting to keep federal screeners and submit them to a quarterly review. Photo: Renata Sago.

Orlando International Airport officials voted this afternoon to keep federal passenger screeners rather than hire private contractors.

Today’s decision comes after two years of looking into whether to privatize screeners.

90.7’s Renata Sago was at this afternoon’s board meeting and joined 90.7's All Things Considered Host Crystal Chavez.

CRYSTAL: Renata, what did the board decide on exactly?

RENATA: Well, the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority voted on a set of standards to improve the overall experience of airport passengers. Airport executives will work directly with the TSA to shorten passenger wait times and improve customer service. That means hiring an independent group to conduct customer service surveys and reviewing the TSA’s performance every quarter.

CRYSTAL: So how will this affect passengers?

RENATA: In many ways, passengers have already seen changes. First, the wait times are shorter. It used to take more than 15 minutes to get through and now that number as gone down. We don’t know how much but they’re trying to keep it between ten and fifteen minutes.  Also there are reports of better customer service.

CRYSTAL: So what are the board’s expectations for TSA moving forward?

RENATA: Collaboration is the key word, here. So essentially, the airport board is asking the TSA to keep the average wait time to that ten to fifteen minute window, and that includes during peak times (between early March and mid-April, Thanksgiving, and December through January). During off peak seasons, the board is asking the TSA to keep the wait times between 6 and 9 minutes. Maintaining a strong level of customer service is important to officials, too, as Orlando Airport welcomes a large number of tourists ever year.

CRYSTAL: So Orlando International would’ve been the largest airport to privatize its operations had it opted to vote against the TSA today, correct?

RENATA: Yes, and that’s why today’s decision was so important, Crystal. Smaller regional airports like Sanford and Key West have privatized their screeners and so far other airports in other states say its cut passenger wait times. But if anything, Orlando International has set a new tone for collaboration. This is the first major airport that has worked directly with a federal agency to come up with a set of standards that will improve operations at the airport.

CRYSTAL: What are board members saying about this?

RENATA: Airport chairman Frank Kruppenbacher is thrilled about the decision. He says the board made a decision in the best interest of the passengers. The TSA has taken flack for being too bureaucratic and inefficient. Congressman John Mica, who helped create the agency in 2001 after the September 11th terrorist attacks, has been working to dismantle the agency. Kruppenbacher, however, blames the flack on a disconnect between airport officials and agency officials. He says it's important for them to collaborate and create standards that work for passengers.

CRYSTAL: Thanks, Renata.

RENATA: You're welcome, Crystal.