The federal government took charge of the passenger-screening checkpoint at the Juneau Airport on Tuesday, although the average traveler probably won't notice, officials said.
Kathy Mathews, the new stakeholder liaison for the Transportation Security Administration in Juneau, said the new federal screeners replaced Alaska Airlines screeners at 4 a.m. on Tuesday. The changeover went smoothly, she said.
"I don't think (travelers) are really going to notice anything significant from what the screeners or airlines were doing previously," she said. "The one big thing they may notice is we have two (screening) lanes rather than one. ... As far as procedures, they won't really notice a change in that way."
The TSA has 35 people stationed in Juneau to screen travelers and another 11 people are being trained, Mathews said. Some of the new federal employees used to work for Alaska Airlines, she said.
The Transportation Security Administration is part of the federal Department of Transportation and was created after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The agency has a Nov. 19 deadline to place federal screeners at all 429 commercial airports in the country. As of Tuesday, 122 airports had federal screeners.
The TSA expects to meet the deadline, according to a press release. Mathews said the TSA is working to make the switch in the rest of Southeast Alaska's airports.
"The next ones are scheduled for sometime in October. We're not sure which towns or which dates," she said. "We're looking at all kinds of different options."
The agency also is working to meet a Dec. 31 deadline to screen all checked luggage for explosives. In Juneau, new equipment to screen luggage likely will be placed behind the Alaska Airlines ticket counter on the first floor, based on preliminary plans presented to the Juneau Airport Board this month. The design means the machines won't be placed in the lobby and people won't have to stand in lines outside the terminal to check in, Airport Manager Allan Heese said. However, the airport terminal might need to be expanded to accommodate displaced offices, he said.
The TSA still is hiring people to screen checked luggage, Mathews said.
"We're trying to meet that deadline as are all of the airports," she said. "It's too early to tell if we're going to be able to."
Joanna Markell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.