Orlando International Airport plans to vote on whether or not they should privatize their airport security during a meeting later this month.
The airport has seen a lot of growth the past few years, and is now ranked as Florida’s busiest airport, and the 13th busiest airport in the country, having handled nearly 45 million passengers in 2017.
The airport is doing everything they can to deliver as good of a passenger experience as possible, though the airport claims that crowding at security checkpoint is resulting in diminished levels of passenger service at peak operational hours.
One of the biggest issues is that the airport only has two main security checkpoints, one of which is at capacity in terms of space. The airport has been considering privatizing their security for several years now, though up until now the airport authority hasn’t voted in favor of it. This is on the table once again, and is expected to be voted on during a February 21st meeting of the airport authority.
A TSA federal security director blames the inefficiencies on the lack of available space. Per the Orlando Sentinel:
“We need the airport to provide space for 19 additional lanes to process people in an even more timely manner,” said Jerry Henderson, a TSA federal security director. “But even working with this extreme deficit in space, TSA’s operation at Orlando International is the most efficient TSA screening operation in the nation.”
There are already a few US airports that have privatized security, including Kansas City and San Francisco. As much as I’m personally generally in favor of privatizing things, I’m not sure this would make much of a difference. I’ve had pretty awful experience with security at SFO, in terms of the friendliness of the employees and also the wait times. Even if security were to be privatized, the TSA would still be in charge of picking and managing the private security. So I’m not sure this is much of a solution.
Orlando Airport scores pretty well by most metrics:
San Francisco’s airport is in the same league as Orlando International as a “mega” airport, according to a 2017 J.D. Power study of traveler satisfaction.
Orlando International was the highest ranked of the 18 mega airports, a recognition Orlando airport officials now tout often.
In the category of security checks, Orlando got four out of five stars, or a “better than most” ranking. San Francisco earned three stars, or a grade of “about average.”
Another gauge is an annual survey by Valencia College. Last year, more than 90 percent of passengers were satisfied or very satisfied with the overall screening experience, according to the survey.
Some suggest that air travel security “is too critical to entrust to for-profit bidders,” which I find to be ironic, given the TSA’s track record of consistently missing a majority of weapons and explosives that are brought through checkpoints in tests.
So I’m not sure what exactly Orlando Airport is hoping to accomplish here. Their major issue seems to be lack of available space. Obviously there are screening inefficiencies as well, though privatizing that probably won’t do much to help (especially as airport security in the US is never truly privatized, as it’s still managed by the TSA).
I’ll be watching to see what decision the airport authority makes on this one.