President Bush signed a bill today (Tuesday) that includes a provision to let airports return to the way they screened travelers before 9-11. Waterloo airport manager Brad Hagen says it changes the requirement to have federal security screeners who work for the Transportation Security Administration, or T.S.A. It will give airports an option to have private screeners work at an airport, instead of having federally scereners search people and their luggage before flights.
Hagen says Waterloo had a private company screening travelers and bags before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, sparked a national drive to make all screeners federal employees. Congress has passed legislation already shielding private screeners and airports from lawsuits if they fail to spot or stop a terrorist attack. The new measure, however, doesn’t force airports to change their screening staff.
Waterloo’s not going to change. Hagen says “We had very good luck with the private company and we’re very happy with the federal screeners as well,” and he’s not going to file the application to change from federal back to private screeners. Five airports in the nation already have changed back to private screeners, as a pilot project.
Four-hundred-fifty U.S. airports in all have commercial flights for which security checks are required. Waterloo is served by Mesaba Airlines, which announced last Thursday it’s filing for bankruptcy. Mesaba is a regional carrier operated by Northwest Airlines, which earlier announced its own bankruptcy proceedings. Hagen says it shouldn’t cause a problem for Iowa travelers. Hagen says the airline and the air service to Waterloo will be better off in the future because of it. He says, “It was necessary and it had to be done.” He says passengers, airports and others connected to aviation won’t notice any difference and will continue to operate as normal. Internally, he says it probably had to be done, for restructuring. It’s business as usual, Hagen says.
He’s talked with both Northwest and Mesaba, and says both will continue to serve Waterloo with the same schedule so you won’t notice any changes. Mesaba serves about 100 cities in the region including Des Moines, Fort Dodge, Mason City, Sioux City, Waterloo and Cedar Rapids.