ST. LOUIS -- Travelers at Lambert Field's main terminal will be checked by federal security screeners beginning Tuesday morning. At the same time, federal screeners will not be coming to Kansas City International Airport at all.
Congress set a Nov. 19 deadline for having federal employees do the screening at most airports.
Bill Switzer, the St. Louis TSA chief, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that 3,000 people applied for roughly 600 federal screener positions in St. Louis. So far, he has sworn in 200, and plans to swear in another 358 today.
Nationally, the effort has been slowed by higher-than-expected failure rates on aptitude tests and background checks, and the failure of some applicants to show up for interviews.
Switzer said St. Louis applicants had the second-highest success rate in the country, behind Alaska. More than half of those sworn in so far have military backgrounds and about 40 percent have worked security jobs in the past. The average age is 35.
Screening at Lambert had been done under contract by Huntleigh USA Corp. and International Total Services. Displaced screeners who worked for those companies are guaranteed jobs with the Transportation Security Administration if they pass the pre-employment assessments.
Switzer has met with those contract employees to "reassure them they will have a job" and has written a letter thanking the screeners for the work they have done in the past 10 months.
The switch will begin at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday at some of the checkpoints that remain open 24 hours, Switzer said.
Federal screeners are expected to be in place in the East Terminal the following week.
Test program at KCI
Kansas City International Airport won't be getting federal screeners at all.
City aviation director Russ Widmar said on Saturday that Kansas City is one of five airports that will be allowed to keep private security screening, under a test program by the TSA. However, the company will be chosen by the TSA, rather than the airport. Widmar said the administration is expected to pick the screening company in the next few weeks.
"I would not expect them to wait too long, because it's a big job to hire these folks," Widmar said.