American Airlines Warns Employees Not To Skip TSA Security When Traveling

Last month American Airlines fired their Cleveland airport General Manager for using his security badge to bypass TSA screening and board a flight, and having someone else skip security to bring him his laptop charger.

Recently American reminded all of its employees not to skip TSA screening checkpoints when traveling.

Did you know it is a TSA regulation to pass through a TSA security checkpoint to gain
access to the terminal when flying on American? Here are some facts to keep in mind:

  • All team members flying on American, whether traveling confirmed or as a nonrevenue passenger, must pass through a TSA security checkpoint before boarding their flight
  • Using your SIDA badge to access employee entrances and bypassing TSA security when travelling as a customer is a violation of TSA regulations and prohibited by American
  • Each year team members are required to complete the annual security lesson, which talks about this violation. Remember:
    • Failure to comply can result in possible monetary penalties for both American and the team member
    • Team members will lose their SIDA badge

SIDA stands for Secure Identification Display Area. The Department of Homeland Security vets badge access including criminal history check, running against the Terrorist Screening Center’s watchlist, and recurrent checks against other databases that content mere rumor and innuendo of potential threats. TSA also applies the FBI’s “Rap Back” recurrent vetting to SIDA badge holders.

The TSA identified 46 cases where someone used a SIDA badge to skip security in a year for reasons other than carrying out their duties. They concluded not a single one of these involved a security risk.

Nonetheless someone who is considered risk-free to transit secure areas of the airport at-will when working must still go through the shoe carnival and submit to liquid checks when traveling. But isn’t that dumb? If you’ve been cleared to access the ramp, why are you more of a threat on days you’re flying?

And nearly every flight attendant uses Known Crewmember lanes on personal travel, wearing their uniform to the airport and changing out of it in the bathroom. And what’s the big deal? Why would someone be more of a risk when they’re out of uniform and traveling, you’d think they’d be more of a threat on days they’re in uniform.

And of course politicians are held to a different standard. When Cleveland airport’s deputy commissioner “‘improperly escorted’ a relative through a secure area” that person kept their job, and when “an airport executive helped another city government executive bypass security” they kept their job after a suspension as well.

And of course TSA has had half of its own employees accused of misconduct but that’s a tough gig to get fired from as well.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. For the same reason you argued immune individuals have to wear a mask. Sometimes perceptions matter more than the reality.

  2. No, @Omar – my argument wasn’t that masks require theater it’s that you cannot know who is a threat and who isn’t but with Known Crewmember and SIDA there’s a process to know precisely that! (These examples are literally opposites, not the same thing.)

  3. @Omar How do we know how “long” or truly “if” someone is Covid19 immune. Anwser: We don’t.

  4. Crewmembers can use KCM (Known Crewmember) stations even if they are not in uniform. But they need to show a 3rd type of identification when doing so. Andt the liquid restrictions revert to the ones of a regular passenger.

  5. Crew members have smuggled everything from money to weapons to endangered animals and child porn. They have snapped and had mental breakdowns mid flight. Why? Because they are human beings living in this world with the rest of us and some do dumb and desperate stuff. Some can be bribed, some can be coerced some can be blackmailed to do bad stuff. So they get screened to keep them honest.

  6. Employees Bypassing security is how a fired, disgruntled employee got on board a USAir/PSA flight 1771, from LAX to SFO, He Shot and killed the man who fired him, then shot a flight attendant. After that, he shot both pilots and forced the control column all the way forward, crashing the plane in the field in California.
    It was obliterated with no recognizable pieces left.
    This is why airlines fire employees who do not go through security when traveling on their aircraft. It changed the standard.

  7. As flight attendants, we aren’t required to be in uniform to use KCM for personal travel. We can still use KCM even in civilian clothes.

  8. Just because they have SIDA doesn’t mean they’re an upright citizen. I know of one who threw books at a coworker and another who actually put his hands around someone’s throat. Just think if he got mad at the flight attendants

  9. @Tru – but if they’re trusted to skip security and access the tarmac when working, why are they more of a threat when not working? It’s the same upright or non-upright citizen either way

  10. @Gary – that depends on the airport. Some airports have employee screening check points, prior to getting onto the AOA. Some airports have different badges for the AOA, meaning you can get into the SIDA, but can’t step foot onto the ramp.

    SIDA badges aren’t the end all be all either, anyone can get one with a clear history. Remember that everyone’s CHRC is clean, until the day that it isn’t. Case in point, the manager from CLE that will potentially never qualify for a SIDA badge ever again.

    I personally don’t mind going through security when getting onto an aircraft, a few airports have lanes dedicated to employees, makes it a breeze to get in.

  11. @Gary,

    It has nothing to do with the uprightness or non-uprightness of the individual. The Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001 requires 100% of passengers and their baggage be screened prior to boarding any commercial flight. There are no exceptions to this, and there are civil and criminal consequences for a passenger to to circumvent security by using a SIDA badge to access the sterile area through a direct access point. Maybe you can get your Congressperson to sponsor legislation changing this.

    However, it is probably not going to change anytime soon because there have been multiple instances of airport and airline employees using their SIDA badges to smuggle weapons and drugs onto aircraft. Internationally, airport and airline employees have used direct access points to smuggle explosives onto aircraft, and lives have been lost because of it.

  12. That’s really too bad. From my experience, the CLE AA station has been one of the best run in the system. Hope that doesn’t change with a new manager.

  13. LOL it wasn’t an Employee, it was MANAGEMENT that violated security…
    it’s clear that they don’t respect anything, whether it’s contracts or security..

  14. I work at MIA this is a known rule along with many others you learn getting a SIDA ID. The deterrent is knowing you can lose your I.D. and job by not following the rules. No exceptions he deserved to be fired.

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