Passenger screeners at Canadian airports say an increase in unruly travellers, insufficient training and confusing rules have made it difficult to keep the skies safe.
An internal report obtained by The Canadian Press outlines a litany of beefs and concerns from screeners who took part in a series of federally sponsored forums in 12 cities late last summer.
A frequent complaint from the front-line airport workers who inspect passengers and carry-on baggage was a growing lack of respect from the flying public.
"Screening officers noted that there is a rise in unruly passengers and verbal abuse directed toward screening officers from both passengers and non-passengers,'' says the summary of a September meeting with 50 Winnipeg airport employees.
"They feel as though they are treated as third-class citizens.''
A synopsis of sessions in Calgary last August with more than 100 screeners said participants "noted that they needed better training to do their jobs well.''
The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority says it has since moved to bolster training and help clarify duties for screening officers.
The federal agency also plans to post signs at airports soon advising travellers that physical or verbal abuse of screeners is unacceptable.
The notices could begin appearing in the security areas of Canada's 29 largest airports as early as next month, said Jacqueline Bannister, a spokeswoman for the security group.
More than 4,000 screening officers work for 13 different service providers at airports across Canada.
Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, which sets standards for the contracted firms that employ the officers, met with screeners to talk about the agency's mission and values, the report says.
A copy of the 40-page document was released under the Access to Information Act.
Screeners in Montreal and Vancouver objected to the fact that a passenger may be permitted to board a flight even after physically assaulting an employee.
"One person commented that if a screening officer is attacked by a passenger, that passenger should not be allowed to fly,'' says the summary of Montreal consultations.
Others wanted better instruction on dealing with difficult travellers and more support from airport police officers.
Bannister said airlines, not screening officers, ultimately decide who may board planes.
Unruly passengers represent a very small percentage of customers, she added.
But Bannister stressed that abuse is not tolerated.
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National security adviser William Elliott says knowing when a person was born is one of the best ways for officials to match a passenger with a name on a watch list.
Behavioural Pattern Recognition is another layer of protection against would-be terrorists.
The most dramatic increase was in the number of passengers who said they felt a high-level of confidence. That margin jumped to 79 per cent of surveyed passengers in 2006 from 43 per cent in 2005.
Although some Canadian airports have expressed interest in the biometric screening, the federal government has to approve such a program before it can be up and running in Canada.