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Opinion

Bessent: Don't relax airline security because of schedule pressure

Interior of an airliner. Employees of Global Elite

Interior of an airliner. Employees of Global Elite Group, a private security contractor based in Garden City, are supposed to search each seat, tray table, overhead bin and seat back pocket for weapons, explosives and drugs between flights at JFK Airport. (Aug. 6, 2003) Credit: AP

Security workers who search the cabins of planes for dangerous objects while they’re on the ground between flights at JFK Airport complain that when security clashes with avoiding flight delays, security loses.

The employees of Global Elite Group, a private security contractor based in Garden City, are supposed to search each seat, tray table, overhead bin and seat back pocket for weapons, explosives and drugs. But according to news accounts, to avoid delaying flights the checks that should take a half hour or more are sometimes done haphazardly in minutes, and areas of some cabins are skipped altogether.

That’s troubling. Particularly since in August a man breached JFK’s $100 million high-tech perimeter security system, demonstrating that an unauthorized person could possibly gain access to airplanes on the tarmac.

After Daniel Castillo’s personal watercraft conked out in Jamaica Bay, the Queens man swam or waded to land near John F. Kennedy Airport, climbed a barbed-wire fence, walked across two active runways and into a terminal without being detected by the expensive array of motion sensors, cameras, radar and police patrols. He was finally spotted by an airport worker.

That suggests the cabin inspections are worth doing, and that means they’re worth doing well.

Global Elite Group said in a statement that its employees’ complaints are false and are part of a ploy by some to generate public support for efforts to unionize. The employees were to file their complaints Thursday with the Transportation Security Agency, which needs to get to the bottom of what’s going on.

Taxpayers are spending a lot of money and air travelers are enduring intrusive screenings before boarding airplanes, all in the name of security. Dangerous security lapses on the tarmac cannot be allowed to make all that a waste of time and money. 

Pictured above: Interior of an airliner. Employees of Global Elite Group, a private security contractor based in Garden City, are supposed to search each seat, tray table, overhead bin and seat back pocket for weapons, explosives and drugs between flights at JFK Airport. (AP Photo, Aug. 6, 2003)

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