COLUMBUS, Ga. – Deadly airport attacks have been making news over the past few years. Last year, bombings at the Brussels Airport and a metro station killed more than 30 people and injured 300 more.
More recently and closer to home, a gunman killed five people and injured six more during an attack in the Fort Lauderdale Airport last month. On Monday, almost a dozen passengers passed through an unsupervised security checkpoint at the JFK Airport.
The Transportation Security Administration has added hundreds of officers and new technology at about 450 airports to manage the nearly two million passengers across the country daily. One passenger says she is still concerned.
“It’s scary. It’s dangerous. In serious times, it’s really dangerous,” said Anu Joseph.
Although the Columbus Airport only has one carrier that services Atlanta, the airport still follows strict airport security policies.
“We’re a commercial service airport so we do, we have a standard airport security program approved by TSA that we live by,” said Columbus Airport Director Richard Howell.
He recalls the shooting at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport earlier this year.
“For every airport person it poses concerns and the issue becomes how far do you go out with screening,” Howell said.
Howell says airport attacks like the Fort Lauderdale shooting are happening in low security areas.
“He’d arrived, gotten off the plane, picked up his bag. He’s in the area where anybody can be and in the state of Georgia you can carry a weapon, clear carry a weapon in airport in those areas. So, it just really becomes a situation of you have to manage your risk as well as you can and that’s apparently the direction we’re going in,” Howell explained.
Howell doesn’t think violent crimes will deter people from flying.
“You can get shot going to the store and probably get shot more often going in the store than you do coming to an airport,” he said.
Just this week, three passengers set off an alarm after walking through an unsupervised metal detector in the JFK Airport and went to their gate without a second screening. Aviation security expert Sheldon Jacobson tells CBS News airport security is weakest early in the morning and during shift changes.
“I believe that TSA has to look at their procedures at those transition points. // we need to follow the procedures to ensure the integrity of the air system and security that is afforded to it,” Jacobson said.
The Columbus Airport sees an average of a few hundred customers a day. Due to the airport’s smaller size, Howell says their level of threat is much lower compared to Hartsfield-Jackson International.
The security screening process at smaller airports like the Columbus Airport is the same process major airports use like Hartsfield-Jackson International. Once passengers go through screening in Columbus, they will not have to go through screening again when they arrive in Atlanta. Howell sees this as an advantage for passengers flying out of Columbus.
They can pull up out front, walk through the building, hit the checkpoint and boom they’re in their airplane an hour after they arrive,” he said.
Starting January 22, 2018, passengers will need an alternate form of ID to fly if they have a driver’s license issued by Maine, Minnesota, Montana or Washington. The TSA says:
Passed by Congress in 2005, the REAL ID Act established
minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and
identification cards and prohibits federal agencies, like TSA, from
accepting licenses and identification cards for official purposes
from states that do not meet these standards.”
Howell says airport attacks have a lot of people talking about airport security, but they will keep doing the best they can to keep a high level of visibility at the terminals.
President Donald Trump has yet to appoint a new TSA Administrator after former head Peter Neffenger stepped down last month.