TSA to Add to Phila. Staff

The Transportation Security Administration says it is taking applications for employees at Philadelphia International Airport, but the effort may not do much to relieve a chronic shortage of screeners that airport officials say they have at security checkpoints.

TSA officials said last week that the Philadelphia airport is authorized to have 750 full-time screeners on staff but would not say exactly how many are working now. The agency expects to hire from about 25 to a little more than 100 full-time and part-time workers, said Darren Kayser, a TSA spokesman in Washington.

Philadelphia is one of the first airports in the country where the agency will be hiring officers locally as it replaces its current system of managing all hiring from its Washington headquarters, Kayser said.

In Philadelphia, starting pay for the federal jobs is $13.35 an hour plus benefits, spokeswoman Katrina Banks said. That is almost twice what many screeners were paid before Sept. 11, 2001, when the job was done by private-sector companies under contract to airlines.

City aviation director Charles J. Isdell has said that Philadelphia International should have 1,000 screeners, based on the number of outbound passengers who pass through checkpoints.

In an interview last year, Isdell said he based that number on TSA's workforce at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which has roughly the same number of outbound passengers as Philadelphia does.

Average waiting times at checkpoints at Philadelphia last year were as little as three minutes and as long as 25 minutes, according to records kept on the TSA Web site. Average waiting times at many other major airports were from two to 19 minutes, the records show. At Seattle, waiting times ranged from three to 11 minutes.

Philadelphia has seen a sharp rise in passengers since Southwest Airlines started service here in May 2004 and US Airways and other carriers matched Southwest's low fares. A record 31.5 million people flew in and out of the airport in 2005, making Philadelphia the 15th-busiest in the country in number of passengers.

Since TSA was created in 2002 to take over the job of airport baggage and passenger screening, Philadelphia has opened a new international terminal and is planning to expand its security lanes at Terminals D and E, airport spokesman Mark Pesce said.

Kayser said Congress has capped the total number of security screeners at 43,000, a reduction of about 7,000 from the number the agency was first authorized to have when it was set up. To determine how many screeners each airport gets, the agency uses a formula based on passenger counts and the number of separate checkpoints that need to be staffed, he said.

ONLINE EXTRA

To apply for jobs with TSA, go to www.tsa.gov and click on employment, or http://tsacareers.recruitsoft.

com, or www.usajobs.gov

Philadelphia Inquirer


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