GAO Report Highlights Holes in Aviation Security
September 29, 2003
WASHINGTON, Sept. 29 - The following is a statement from Association of Flight Attendants, AFL-CIO, International President Patricia Friend.
"Last week's GAO report showing that guns, knives and box cutters still routinely make it through airport security checkpoints without being detected, coupled with recent government warnings about intelligence that Al-Qaeda is again targeting aircraft, should serve as a wake up call to Congress.
"The opportunity for another deadly attack on a U.S. aircraft is blatantly obvious. Aircraft are still targets and deadly weapons can still make it through security -- but two years after the September 11 attacks, the nation's flight attendants have not received any meaningful anti-terrorist security training.
"The pilots, even the few who have guns, are under strict orders not to leave the cockpit in any dangerous emergency situation and air marshals are only onboard selected flights. In most cases, the flight attendants and passengers are left defenseless in the cabin.
"Flight attendants work under the threat of another terrorist attack every day we put on our wings. Passengers expect that their cabin crew have emergency training to evacuate aircraft, fight fires and handle medical emergencies. But two years after September 11, we aren't any better trained to fight back in the most terrifying situation of all -- a terrorist attack. That's why flight attendants have been pushing Congress and the Transportation Security Administration for mandatory security training to help close this loophole.
"However, this vital training is languishing in Congress once again. And thanks to the interference of one airline, that loophole may remain. The training was part of the FAA Reauthorization bill that passed in the Senate and the House. However, when the bill went to conference, Continental Airlines had a provision changed that made the requirement for TSA to issue mandatory guidelines voluntary, removing any requirement for the TSA to develop guidelines at all. Without mandatory requirements, the TSA and the industry will continue to do nothing.
"This is the third time Congress has had to include this language. Two sets of legislation that mandated comprehensive security and anti-hijacking training for flight attendants -- the Air Transportation Security Act and the Homeland Security Act -- have already been passed. The airlines and TSA have been successful in using loopholes to avoid providing anything more than minimal training that mocks the law. Airline lobbyists have tried every trick in the book, from opposing mandatory standards to requesting that flight attendants pay for security training out of their own pockets."
More than 50,000 flight attendants at 26 airlines join together to form AFA, the world’s largest flight attendant union. Visit us @ www.afanet.org.