Airports ask appeals court to keep TSA at exit lanes

4:08 PM, Dec 6, 2013   |    comments
A Transportation Security Administration officer was killed Friday at Los Angeles International Airport, in the first death in the line of duty since the agency was created a decade ago. (Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP)
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(USA TODAY) Airports are asking a federal appeals court to halt the Transportation Security Administration's plan to stop guarding exit lanes between where flights arrive and baggage claim.

In October, TSA told 155 airports where federal officers still monitor the exit lanes that they should take over responsibility for those gates in early 2014,to save the agency money during federal cost-cutting.

But airports complain they shouldn't have to staff the positions that a TSA study says will cost them $129 million in the first year and $110 million annually after that.

Two industry groups, the Association of Airport Executives and Airports Council International-North America, joined 19 airports Thursday in asking the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to halt the change. Airports face the need to hire and train workers to fill 1,897 TSA slots at 348 exit lanes if the change stands.

Scott Lewis, a Massachusetts lawyer at Anderson and Kreiger LLP representing the airports, argued that the rule change is "arbitrary and capricious because it imposes incoherent and inconsistent obligations upon all of the affected airports."

TSA basically contends that the agency is responsible for checkpoints where passengers are getting on planes, but airports should be responsible for access points such as outer doors and exit lanes. TSA notes that two-thirds of airports already guard their own exit gates.

"TSA has determined that in the current fiscal environment, with limited resources, the agency must focus its resources at airports on other critical functions, including its statutory responsibility to screen passengers and property in air transportation," TSA Administrator John Pistole wrote in response to airports that complained about the change.

Individual airports participating in the case are: Fort Lauderdale, Richmond, Chicago O'Hare and Midway, Los Angeles, Columbus, Huntsville in Alabama, Boston, Memphis, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Midland in Texas, Milwaukee, Portland, Seattle, Raleigh, San Diego, Sarasota, Harrisburg in Pennsylvania and Detroit.

No hearing date has been set.

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