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TSA Abruptly Tightens Rules for Known Crew Members

TSA Abruptly Tightens Rules for Known Crew Members
Jeff Edwards

The TSA took the unusual step announcing a major change to airport screening rules over the weekend with very little prior notice. Although unions representing pilots and flight attendants have urged members to comply fully with the tightened regulations, labor leaders have questioned the strange timing and lack of coordination involved in the surprise changes to the Known Crewmember Program.

In an unexpected move this weekend, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) tightened the rules for pilots and cabin crew members using the Known Crewmember Program (KCM). Eligible crew members will now be required to be in uniform if they wish to take advantage of the expedited airport security screening checkpoints. The rule changes also call for much stricter rules about how and when airline employees might be subjected to Unpredictable Screening Procedures (USP) or random screening at the airport.

“Effective August 28, 2019, KCM-authorized crew members will be required to wear uniforms while using KCM access points,” the Homeland Security agency announced in a notice released on Saturday.  “Effective August 27, 2019, an automated enhancement to Unpredictable Screening Procedures (USP) will be enabled. This enhancement will include retention of the crew member selection for USP for a period of time at all KCM access points in that airport. NOTE: If the selected crew member exits the sterile area and attempts to reenter through a KCM access point during this time period, they will continue to be identified for USP.”

Although changes to TSA airport screening procedures aren’t especially uncommon (the rules governing the KCP have already undergone dozens of policy revisions in the short time since its inception), the timing and short notice of these most recent changes has, however, raised some questions in this case. Two of the largest labor organizations in the U.S. representing crew members have indicated that, in a departure from normal practices, they were not consulted or given advance notice of the new protocols.

“The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), working with Airlines for America (A4A) but without the inclusion of ALPA, has developed certain new amendments to the Known Crewmember (KCM) program, which go into effect in a few days,” the Air Line Pilots Association wrote in an alert to members. “ALPA is in the process of determining the rationale, timing, and reasons for the lack of coordination with the Association on these changes, and we will pass along additional information to our members as soon as it is available.”

Both the ALPA and the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) urged rank and file members to comply with the surprise new restrictions. In a notice to cabin crew members, the AFA suggested that the move may be related to an unknown and recently identified security threat.

“It is highly unusual that a change would be communicated on a Saturday without advance notice and a relatively tight implementation time of a few days,” the union explained. “Please note that changes made are within the analysis of TSA’s risk-based security system. Until we know more, AFA-CWA encourages all crew members to help spread the word about the new procedures and comply accordingly. Once we have more information about the genesis of the change we will determine how to respond as a union.”

Prior to this weekend’s announcement, there have been some hints that the TSA has been focusing extra attention on KCM screening in recent weeks. Last month, a Delta Air Lines pilot was taken into custody on suspicion of reporting for duty while intoxicated and it was his odd behavior at the Known Crewmember screening area that first raised alarms. “The individual left the line, which drew suspicion,” Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (MSP) spokesperson Patrick Hogan later confirmed.

View Comments (6)


  1. Centurion

    August 26, 2019 at 4:31 pm

    Why would you write this dribble that only puts our intelligence community assets and methods at risk? Newly discovered known threat = KCM screening change. We just have a couple weeks until Sept 11th. Shame on you.

  2. ords

    August 27, 2019 at 4:23 am

    How about the fact that you could have non working flight crews using it to cut the line so to speak. So the premise that it should only be used while working makes sense. What you and even unions are doing is speculating.

  3. xanthuos


    August 28, 2019 at 6:46 pm

    Both of your comments are ridiculous.
    For Centurion, I don’t understand how reporting on KCM changes puts anyone in the intelligence community at risk. These changes were publicly disseminated.
    For ords, yes non-working crew could (and still can) utilize KCM. It isn’t “skipping the line” at all. If anything, it decreases the wait times in the normal security line for non-working crew members to utilize KCM since KCM is already staffed for use.

  4. KRSW

    August 29, 2019 at 10:10 am

    It bothers the heck out of me how much TSA harasses airline employees, especially flight crew. If the TSA hasn’t noticed, on the flight deck of every commercial airline is a big honkin’ crash axe. I’ve gotten to play with these — they’re serious tools. Instead, we have the TSA worried about pilots carrying butter knives they purloined from the airline — the same butter knife they will be handed by the cabin crew for their dinner.

    It’s not like crews are walking through the checkpoint without any sort of screening. There’s still an x-ray check of their baggage and metal detector, the same thing Pre-Check people get, and the same thing we’ve used successfully in aviation for more than 40 years.

  5. J S

    September 10, 2019 at 1:39 pm

    @xanthuos is exactly right. I second exactly what he or she said.

  6. SamirD

    September 20, 2019 at 5:05 pm

    I suspect someone slipped through as crew when they weren’t and they were dressed casual–and people at the top got pissed that this happened (because of what it could have led to) so knee-jerk reaction to prevent same.

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