Some Montana airports switch to private security screeners


BELGRADE, Mont. - The Transportation Security Administration awarded four montana Airports with private screening contracts.

NBC Montana visited one local airport swapping out TSA agents for private security screeners to figure out what this means to flyers.

Brian Sprenger is director of Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport. He has high hopes for what private screening means to his passengers, saying, "The process will be more efficient and hopefully a better experience for them."

The airport requested the switch about two years ago after increased customer service complaints about privacy, friendliness, and inefficient staffing.

Sprenger explained he hopes, "A private company will be able to better adjust their staffing levels to the ebb and flow of the passenger traffic."

Bringing in Comprehensive Security Services Inc. and First-Line Transportation Security is part of a 5-year, $28.6 billion contract covering Bozeman-Yellowstone and 3 other Montana Airports.

That brings the total number of Montana airports with private screeners to 9, half of the 18 in the nation.

"Montana looks like is really on the leading edge of the transition toward private screening at airports across the country," said Sprenger.

Passengers we spoke to had mixed feelings on the TSA as well as the potential effects of the switch.

While Ted Spath doesn't approve of how the TSA performs it's duties, saying, "If people have a choice then that means the TSA would have to be quality conscious."

Another passenger has had more pleasant experiences. "The service was fine in my opinion before and maybe it will be fine again, hopefully," said Jane MacCarter.

Brian Sprenger says that even with all of the changes taking place, the TSA will remain a presence, along with their regulations and procedures.

Sprenger said, "Ultimately safety and security are still the foremost thought of all of us."

The Bozeman-Yellowstone International Airport in Belgrade is the busiest airport in the state.

It joins the three other airports awarded the private screening: Bert Mooney Airport in Butte, Glacier Park International Airport between Kalispell and Whitefish, and Yellowstone Airport in West Yellowstone.

The five previous airports in Montana are located in Sidney, Glendive, Wolf Point, Glasgow, and Havre.

The largest airport in the country to adopt private screeners is the San Francisco International Airport. As of 2012 that airport is the 8th largest overall.

It is expected that the new private screeners will be in place at Bozeman-Yellowstone International Airport by the end of August.

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