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Under The Radar (Summary)


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A LAANE report reveals that airlines at LAX may have put the security and the health of the public at risk, while failing to provide adequate services for passengers with disabilities. Although the duties of airline contracted service workers are vital to the health and safety of the traveling public, these workers are poorly compensated, receive little training, and have few incentives to stay in their jobs long term.

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Under The Radar (Summary)

  1. 1. Under the Radar How Airline Outsourcing of Passenger Services Compromises Security and Service Quality at LAX Carolina Briones Aiha Nguyen Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy July 2007
  2. 2. “I was told to search the airplane cabin for suspicious items, but I never had training on what kinds of things I should look for.” —Xiomara Osorio, LAX passenger service worker “You have to be careful lifting people with disabilities or else you’ll injure the passenger and yourself. A while back, a passenger in a wheelchair was dropped and got hurt pretty badly. The attendant felt terrible, but he had no training on how to do this correctly.” —Tim Maddox, LAX passenger service worker “Our equipment is not well maintained, and it’s not safe for the passengers or for us. Few of the wheelchairs I use have brakes that work, so I have to hold onto the wheelchair to keep it from moving.” —Carolina Franco, LAX passenger service worker Under the Radar i
  3. 3. Executive Summary Introduction government has made major investments in technology and staffing to prevent terrorist attacks at airports. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is one of the city’s most prized public assets. As the fifth-largest However, these efforts to improve airport security and passenger airport in the world, LAX is a major economic operations at LAX are undermined by the airlines’ engine for the Los Angeles region. Given the airport’s contracting system, which jeopardizes public safety and importance to the regional economy, local officials undermines the quality of services provided to passengers. have recently undertaken major initiatives to improve Our survey of nearly 300 passenger service workers at LAX operations at LAX. Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), has found that the airlines have allowed their contractors to the city agency that operates LAX, will spend $11 billion put the security and the health of the public at risk, while over the next decade upgrading and renovating the failing to provide adequate services for passengers with airport’s terminal buildings and runways. disabilities. Meanwhile, LAWA has little oversight in this area, even though these contractors provide vital security The airport’s size and prominence also make it a prime and passenger services on airport property. Although the terrorist target. Al-Qaeda plotted to bomb the airport in duties of airline contracted service workers are vital to the 1999, seeing it as a symbol of American commerce. Since health and safety of the traveling public, these workers are September 11, 2001, airports have become one of the poorly compensated, receive little training, and have few highest priorities for homeland security, and the federal incentives to stay in their jobs long term. Under the Radar Under the Radar
  4. 4. Findings Airlines are compromising security at LAX by failing to About Passenger Service Workers ensure that their contractors provide adequate training to This report focuses on passenger services that are passenger service workers. provided by airline contractors in areas frequented by the public. There are an estimated 2,500 passenger • At LAX, it is possible to board an airplane with only a service workers at LAX employed by companies that contracted security worker checking the passenger’s contract with the airlines. Passenger service work ID. However, less than 20 percent of surveyed is integral to airport operations and includes the workers with security duties have received formal following important functions: training on spotting fake IDs. Security:.Searching airplanes for suspicious items, • Less than 25 percent of surveyed workers with guarding airplanes, staffing security checkpoints, security duties have received formal training on handling screened baggage conducting plane searches for dangerous items. Customer Service:.Escorting elderly and passengers Workers say they have as little as 15 minutes to with disabilities, handling baggage conduct these searches. Public Health:.Cleaning airplane cabins, including • Only one in four surveyed workers with security food storage areas and restrooms duties has received training in identifying suspicious behavior. Other airports such as Boston’s Logan International and Miami International have instituted with disabilities. Workers allege that Aero Port Services training for all airport employees in “behavior is not providing the training and staffing required pattern recognition,” which employs advanced under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). techniques for identifying suspicious behavior. Airline cost-cutting is jeopardizing the health of the • Only 10 percent of passenger service workers public and undermining service quality. surveyed have received formal training in terminal • More than one-third of cabin cleaners surveyed said evacuation and emergency procedures. they sometimes don’t have enough time or staff to change all the pillowcases and blankets on the plane. As Airlines at LAX are not providing adequate services a result, passengers may be coming into close contact to passengers with disabilities and the elderly due to with used items that could spread germs and disease. equipment problems, lack of training, and understaffing. • n I recent years, major airlines such as Northwest, • More than half of all workers surveyed said they America West, Southwest, and JetBlue have been often do not have adequate equipment or enough found by the U.S. Department of Transportation staff to do their jobs well. (DOT) to be violating federal regulations protecting passengers with disabilities. In 2005, 13,000 disability- Multiple contractors operating in the same terminal for related complaints were filed with DOT against the different airlines creates an inefficient system that is airlines. inconsistent and lacks coordination. • At the Tom Bradley International Terminal, seven • At LAX, 75 percent of wheelchair attendants surveyed different passenger service contractors operate reported problems with broken or malfunctioning simultaneously. wheelchairs and nearly a third said a passenger has been in danger due to equipment problems or • Standards are inconsistent across airlines and lack of training. More than 60 percent of wheelchair terminals. Workers report that contractors provide attendants surveyed have not received formal training more wheelchairs to airlines that complain the in how to lift a passenger with a disability. loudest, rather than to those that have the most passengers in need. • Passenger service workers at LAX have filed a complaint with the Department of Transportation • Fierce competition between airlines means they have alleging that a major contractor and its client airlines are little incentive to share resources to meet unexpected in violation of federal regulations protecting passengers passenger demands. For example, airlines using Under the Radar Under the Radar
  5. 5. different contractors for wheelchair service in • Taxpayers bear the costs of poverty jobs when the same terminal will not call on each other for workers rely on government assistance programs and assistance if there is a sudden high demand. overburdened public health facilities. Contracted security workers are still working in pre-9/11 conditions, with little training, poor compensation, and few incentives to stay in their jobs long term. Recommendations In the absence of federal standards, and with the airlines • Before 9/11, airport security screeners were focused on their bottom line, Los Angeles World Airports contracted by the airlines. They became federal (LAWA) has an important role to play in increasing employees in an effort to improve security by accountability. increasing training, improving compensation, and reducing employee turnover. • LAWA should follow the lead of other airports, such as San Francisco International Airport and airports in • Contracted passenger service workers have important Europe, which have greater oversight regarding the security functions, yet still face substandard conditions. provision of vital airport services. • Turnover is high among passenger service workers • LAWA should use a competitive bidding process to surveyed. Twenty-five percent of passenger service workers select a group of pre-qualified airline contractors that have been at their job for less than a year and more than 50 are allowed to operate at its airports. percent have been there for three years or less. • AWA should institute performance standards for L Passenger service jobs contribute to poverty in many passenger service contractors. Setting standards low-income communities already affected by airport air for employee training, service quality, security pollution and noise. procedures and job quality will address some of the • he average earnings of surveyed workers are less than T problems documented in this report. $19,000 per year, which is not enough to meet the cost of basic necessities for living in Los Angeles. On average, • AWA should enforce its performance standards by L workers surveyed have to pay more than $3,000 per imposing penalties on contractors that fail to meet them. year for family health coverage, if it is available at all. There should be a process for workers and members of the public to file complaints against contractors. • ore than 60 percent of workers surveyed live M in high-poverty communities surrounding the • LAWA should limit the overall number of passenger airport and in South Los Angeles. Many of these service contractors in order to improve efficiency and communities bear the brunt of airport emissions and coordination. LAWA should also limit the number of lie in its flight path. contractors that operate in each terminal. Under the Radar Under the Radar
  6. 6. Passenger service workers perform important security functions and are the airports’ ambassadors to the public. Much of a passenger’s airport experience will be shaped by the services provided by checkpoint staffers, baggage porters, and wheelchair attendants.