Dec. 12--The airport industry is fighting federal rule changes that would require it to pay for staff at security checkpoint exit lanes starting next year.
Two trade associations have sued the Transportation Security Administration to halt the order, and a provision in the proposed federal budget could raise fees on airline tickets to help pay for the agency to continue monitoring exits.
Passing responsibility for exit lanes on to 155 airports could save the TSA about $80 million next year, but a lawyer representing airports said it could cost at least $130 million for airports to hire, train and pay new security personnel. TSA monitors exit lanes at about one-third of the country's airports, said spokesman Mark Howell.
The Columbus Regional Airport Authority expects to spend at least $325,000 next year at Port Columbus and Rickenbacker Airport if the order is upheld, said spokeswoman Angie Tabor. The authority has a $66 million budget for next year.
"It would be a tremendous financial impact that we would have to pass along," Tabor said.
Last month, 155 airports received letters indicating that airport managers would have to take over the exits in 2014, said Scott Lewis, the lawyer representing the industry in its lawsuit. About 124 of those airports appealed to the agency, but their requests were denied.
A federal budget deal that is being billed as a bipartisan effort to cut spending and increase revenue from new and extended fees could keep the exit lanes under TSA control, though. The TSA fee that passengers pay on a typical nonstop, roundtrip airline ticket would increase from $5 to $10 under the deal to help pay for the security.
The agency does not comment on pending legislation, Howell said.
TSA officers police the exit lanes to keep people who are in publicly accessible portions of the airport from entering the "sterile area" without going through security screening, Tabor said.
"We are working all angles very hard to keep this responsibility with the TSA," she said. "We believe that exit lanes are indeed part of security and screening and therefore should remain under the responsibility of the TSA."
Information from the Associated Press was included in this story.
Copyright 2013 - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio
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