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SFO baggage screening not consistent

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San Francisco International SFO
Baggage handlers at SFO allege that high-risk bags passing through SFO don't always receive human inspection. (Bill Abbott/Flickr)

Officials at San Francisco International insist the airport is safe after a group of baggage handlers filed complaints with federal authorities alleging security was being compromised in the name of profit.

In a special investigation, The Ex reports that 137 baggage screeners at SFO sent a signed petition more than a year ago to the Transportation Security Administration and other agencies.

The petition accompanied a letter complaining about a Covenant Aviation Security baggage manager and procedural issues regarding baggage screening.

Screeners told The Ex that Covenant supervisors would routinely bypass inspection of suspicious bags stacked up during peak travel times. They allege this means dozens or hundreds of bags deemed high-risk by machinery each day are loaded onto planes with no human inspection.

Baggage and passenger security at SFO is handled by Covenant, a private firm. SFO is the largest of just 17 airports in the nation not protected by the TSA.

TSA spokesman Nico Melendez told The Ex that complaints from the workers were received and investigated:

“TSA determined the application of screening procedures was not consistently applied, but passengers’ safety was not compromised.”

SFO is one of two international airports in the U.S. with security managed by Covenant, according to their website. The other is in Glasgow, Mont., population 3,301.

Jesse Garnier
Jesse Garnier is the editor and founder of SFBay. A Mission District native, he also teaches journalism as assistant professor at San Francisco State University.

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