Airlines and airports dismissed as unnecessary new government regulations that took effect Monday and require them to report to the Transportation Security Administration any incident that could be considered a security threat.
The rules are designed to make sure the TSA can spot terrorist activity, agency spokeswoman Yolanda Clark said. The agency wants all incidents reported to its Transportation Security Operations Center so they can be analyzed for patterns, such as a raft of reports of suspicious people lingering in aircraft lavatories.
“We can track trends, determine if there are any trends among significant events that we’re seeing,” Clark said.
Ken Maxwell, JetBlue Airways’ vice president for security, said the new requirement is a “broad-brush approach” that will hinder airlines from focusing on real security threats by forcing them to report everything.
“If these new procedures were such that they enhanced overall security, everyone would be for them,” Maxwell said. He said the airline security directive is classified, so he couldn’t comment on its specifics.
Airports say the order requires them to add another reporting mechanism to an already existing one.
Agency requested to reconsider
Ian Redhead, director of security for Airports Council International, said the trade group has asked the TSA to rescind the directive.
“We already think there exists an efficient and effective system and we are asking them to reconsider this duplicative requirement,” Redhead said.
The major airlines’ trade association, the Air Transport Association, is urging the TSA to narrow the scope of the orders.
“Several carriers feel that the TSA stepped into something that it doesn’t really understand,” ATA spokesman Doug Wills said. “Does an unruly passenger or a passenger who’s had too much to drink represent a threat to airline security? In most cases the answer is no, but there are thousands of those generated every month.”
Wills said airlines now refer the most serious incidents to local law enforcement and the FBI.
The FBI has “special air jurisdiction” for anything that happens after an airliner’s door is closed.
‘Felony ... at 30,000 feet’
“Behavior that will get you thrown out of a bar will get you a federal felony when it happens at 30,000 feet,” FBI spokesman Joe Parris said.
Clark said the order doesn’t supersede the airlines’ responsibility to notify local law enforcement or other agencies if there’s an incident.
Steve Luckey, a retired airline captain who chairs the Air Line Pilots Association’s national security committee, said flight crews support the new orders because they want to make sure the government takes notice of their concerns.
“The carriers themselves aren’t equipped to handle a lot of this stuff,” Luckey said. “Pilots, crew members have called in incidents, and we’ve tried to see where it goes. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go anywhere.”