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Flight attendants to soon get speedy security screenings

Flight attendants for U.S. airlines will soon be able to get through security checkpoints at many airports as quickly as pilots do.

The Transportation Security Administration announced Monday that its Known Crewmember (KCM) initiative, which currently offers expedited security screening to pilots at 14 airports, will expand to include verified flight attendants.

The program does not permit crewmembers to bypass screening, but provides an alternative, streamlined form of screening. According to the KCM program website: “Participants are screened separately and differently from passengers because of their established background credentials, TSA-recognized trustworthiness and responsibilities.”

Noting that flight attendants are the “first responders and the last line of defense in aviation,” Veda Shook, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, applauded TSA’s action and called it a move that “strengthens our network and allows us to focus on the real threats.” KCM “recognizes our role in keeping U.S. aviation safe,” she said.

KCM was enacted in 2011. Denver International, Salt Lake City International and Philadelphia International joined the program last week. Seventeen more airports around the nation will take part in the program, and are considered "in progress."

TSA said it may be a year before all airlines make “the necessary system modifications” to implement this change to KCM, but that flight attendants might be able to begin accessing expedited screening as early as fall 2012.

In a statement, TSA administrator John Pistole said he was pleased that the identity-based initiatives were being extended to flight attendants and called it a “positive step in the evolution of the agency’s ongoing risk-based security approach.”

James Little, president of the Transport Workers Union, said expanding the program allows TSA to focus its resources on real security threats and "will also assist in the flow of other passengers as they transition through the airport security lanes."

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