El Al wants to do its own bag screening at Newark airport
El Al given quiet permission to do so at four other airports; no other airline has such arrangement in U.S.
U.S. transportation security officials are considering a request by El Al airlines to do its own baggage screening at Newark Liberty International Airport - something the airline already does at four other major U.S. airports.
The Star-Ledger of Newark reported in Thursday's newspapers that the U.S. Transportation Security Administration has quietly permitted El Al to do its own screening of baggage destined to be put aboard its flights at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Los Angeles International, Miami International and O'Hare International in Chicago.
No other airline has such an arrangement with U.S. officials, authorities acknowledged. At the four other airports, El Al has installed its own security software at bomb-detection machines, which authorities said is more sensitive than that used by American carriers.
"This was strictly at the request of El Al, and we want to be sensitive to the security threats they face in their particular part of the world," Amy von Walter, a TSA spokeswoman, told the newspaper.
El Al did not immediately return a message seeking comment left with its public relations office in New York on Thursday morning.
Critics of the TSA say the El Al request is an embarrassing indictment of U.S. safety precautions after the Sept. 11 attacks.
"El Al knows our security isn't worth a hoot," said Michael Boyd, an aviation industry consultant and longtime TSA critic. "It's a heck of an indictment for the TSA when a foreign airline says they want to screen their own luggage. It says they don't trust us."
At Newark, El Al wants to use a room to screen checked bags that will be loaded onto the six flights that depart each week for Israel. The airline would increase the machines' sensitivity, triggering more alarms and hand searches of checked baggage, which its personnel would carry out.
El Al accounts for about 185,000 of the 33 million passengers who use Newark Liberty each year.