Pilots and Flight Attendants May No Longer Be Allowed to Skip the Security Line

Abuse of the system has put the Known Crewmember program in jeopardy

A prohibited items sign at the TSA security checkpoint in Miami International Airport.
Pilots and flight attendants may be losing some security privileges.

There are many things I’ve questioned during my time standing in line at TSA checkpoints, my sanity chief among them, but pilots and flight attendants being allowed to skip to the front of the line unchecked was never one.

Perhaps I should have, though.

According to a new report from Paddle Your Own Kanoo, it’s not uncommon for cabin crew members to take advantage of the the Known Crewmember (KCM) program — which expedites the screening for those who have, for obvious reasons, already undergone extensive security vetting — since its inception in 2011.

In fact, abuse of the system is the main reason why the TSA is reportedly preparing to scrap the program, in favor of another (and presumably, a considerably less popular) one: the Expedited Crew Access (ECA). (Although, on Wednesday afternoon, the leader of the largest flight attendant union in the U.S. tweeted “This is not happening.”)

“As the name suggests, crew members won’t be subjected to full passenger screening but potentially something more akin to TSA PreCheck,” Mateusz Maszczynski writes. “It could also emulate the screening methods that all international crew members passing through U.S. airports are currently subjected to, in which there are no limits on liquids.”

Of course, this is not to say that most cabin crew members have taken advantage of the program. I’d venture to guess the majority of pilots and flight attendants used KCM exactly how it was intended. That said, the cases in which they were found to be abusing the system were…extreme.

For example, last month, one off-duty flight attendant was allegedly caught attempting to pass through a KCM checkpoint in San Diego with more than three pounds of fentanyl wrapped around her body. A number of others have been found with things like “loaded firearms, numerous edged weapons” and “1 kilo of methamphetamine,” and that was just in the month of October. Per Paddle Your Own Kanoo, several “high-profile incidents” have led to as many reminders to not abuse the program, though apparently to no avail.

While it’s unclear when KCM will get the axe and ECA will take effect — if it happens at all — it’s probably worth nothing that a flight quite literally cannot depart without its designated crew, so it really doesn’t benefit anyone for the (rule-abiding) flight attendants and pilots to get stuck in the security line, even if it is a much lesser version than the rest of us are subjected to.


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