SRQ closer to privatizing screeners

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- There are more than 50,000 TSA screeners nationwide, and in the next few months, there will be about 75 fewer in Sarasota.

"It's called the Screening Partnership Program, it allows the airport to opt out of the TSA screening program," explained airport CEO Rick Piccolo.

By November, SRQ will be among the first twenty airports in the nation to opt out of federal worker. 

"Hopefully it'll bring better customer service--they've been fine, but allowing for more flexibility in scheduling and make it easier to control," Piccolo said.

Piccolo says it has nothing to do with saving money--but rather a philosophy to not have federal agency overseeing and regulating itself.

"Most countries have security done by a private enterprise, managed by a government agency for oversight. I think there are only four countries in the world that have federal employees doing the screening," he said.

Passengers at SRQ were mixed on the plans to privatize the federal screeners.

"Anytime you have government oversight, they'll be problems. If a private company is allowed to do it, they'll probably get it done," said Doug Dee, a passenger waiting for his flight back to Atlanta.

But Martha Riles of Sarasota doesn't see a reason to change the status quo. "TSA is already here and keeping us safe and grounded, so why bring in another company?"

TSA will actually choose the private company, and as for the federal workers, the policy states they'll have an opportunity to work for the new company and even receive a similar salary and benefits package.

Piccolo says passengers won't notice much difference besides different uniforms.

"We're hoping the only difference they see is a little better response to customer service, again I want to stress we didn't have huge problems from a local standpoint," he said.

Piccolo expects the transition to be complete by November.

The only other Florida airport to use private screeners is Key West, however Sanford, near Orlando, is expected to be second, with Sarasota the third to make the change.