Flight Attendants Call for New Safety, Security Reforms

The Association of Flight Attendants is telling Congress the safety and security procedures announced in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are not enough.

The Association of Flight Attendants is telling Congress that the safety and security procedures and guidelines announced by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are not extensive enough to prevent a similar tragedy in the future, and are recommending significantly stronger action.

"The FAA''s new safety and security procedures fail to address the most serious breakdowns in aircraft cabin security that appear to have led to this tragedy," said Patricia Friend, AFA International president. "To prevent future attacks, flight attendant training and certification procedures must be significantly updated and enhanced, security screening procedures must be federalized, and carry-on baggage limits must be imposed."

Flight attendants are calling for:

Updated training procedures and certification of flight attendants. Airlines currently develop flight attendant training programs that meet FAA minimum criteria. While the training on aircraft evacuation is frequently updated, training in hijacking situations is extremely outdated. Current training includes showing flight attendants a video focused on hijacking situations faced in the 1970s.

FAA minimum requirements for flight attendant training procedures must be made more comprehensive, and include updated hijacking and security training. Flight attendants must be certified once training programs are successfully completed.

The imposition of a single standard that strictly limits carry-on baggage. Security screeners are over-taxed under the current system. Since there is no system-wide standard on carry-on baggage, screeners are required to scan too many bags, many of which are too large, making proper scanning difficult. As a result, screeners miss suspicious or potentially dangerous items in bags that could be used in another attack. When such items are intercepted, heightened scrutiny of the person carrying the items can then occur.

Federalization of airport security screening, with jurisdiction turned over to the Department of Justice. Current procedures have led to poorly paid, poorly trained, inexperienced, and uncommitted workers -- with more than 100 percent annual turnover in most cases -- who have no stake in preventing dangerous items from entering the aircraft cabin. Security screening should be treated as a law enforcement job, with the training and compensation commensurate with that of other federal law enforcement officials.

An increase in the percentage of checked baggage that is screened.

Passenger prescreening to be expanded for domestic passengers as well as international passengers.

Positive passenger baggage match expanded to all flights. This includes removing from aircraft the bags of passengers who have not boarded the plane.

The ban on all remote check-ins, including disallowing electronic ticketing check-in kiosks that currently allow a passenger to check-in and receive a boarding pass without ever being positively identified by the carriers'' airport staff. All passengers must check-in and show identification at staffed check-in counters.

All current and future commercial aircraft to be retrofitted with fortified cockpit doors and new regulations to ensure a secure cockpit with limited access.

A mandate on the use of, and increase in the number of, federal marshals on domestic flights.

Disaster relief for all the families of victims of the Sept. 11 attack and for flight attendants whose jobs are affected by cutbacks as a result of the attacks.

Trained and certified personnel to perform searches of aircraft cabins.

K-9 bomb-sniffing dogs made available at all major airports for use in routine airport and aircraft bomb searches.

by Virginia Foran

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