Between 2010 and 2014, the Transportation Security Administration paid a total of $3 million to nearly 15,000 airline passengers who had their luggage or its contents lost, broken or stolen by airport screeners, according to USA Today
The newspaper conducted a review of some 50,000 complaints filed with the TSA and concluded that one out of three claims filed during the five-year period resulted in a claim being paid. Amounts ranged from a few dollars to several thousand dollars.
Items stolen from passengers included food, medicine, jewelry, and electronics.
With 857 payouts, New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport topped the paid claims list, followed by Los Angeles International with 791. They are two of the busiest airports in the country.
When the newspaper adjusted the top 30 airports for the number of people served and the share of passengers who filed claims, Washington’s Dulles International led the list and Orlando International was next.
Reno-Tahoe International, which handles just 8.8 million passengers annually, had the highest number of claims filed and claims paid per 1 million passengers, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal
Claims filed by passengers at that airport ranged from missing or damaged electronics to clothing, cash and sports equipment, the newspaper reports.
Reno-Tahoe International CEO Marily Mora wants an explanation about why the TSA agents at her airport had such a poor showing.
"The TSA told us they don't see anything alarming about the numbers here in Reno," said Mora. "I'm not satisfied."
A TSA spokesman told USA Today that the claims "represent a tiny fraction" of the 2.5 million bags screened each day by its agents. Luggage is also subject to damage or theft on airport conveyor belts, and during transport to the aircraft and handling by airline employees, he added.
"The agency says it's taken a zero-tolerance approach to theft, tightened hiring requirements for screeners and stemmed the tide of claims," USA Today reports. "TSA supervisors have fired more than 500 officers since 2003 for theft.
"Claims filed, and claims paid, are down about 35 percent from 2010 to 2014, according to USA Today's analysis. TSA denied approximately half of all claims filed since 2010.”
In 2011, a Government Accountability Office report found that the background checks of TSA workers were inadequate and failed to uncover the criminal pasts of some of its employees, according to USA Today.
The following year, The Huffington Post
reported that amid a backlog of pending background checks for new hires, the TSA allowed Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport to hire workers without a completed background check.
The agency, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, maintains that it "aggressively investigates all allegations of misconduct and, when infractions are discovered, moves swiftly to hold the offenders accountable," according to spokesman Bruce Anderson. "TSA holds its security officers to the highest professional and ethical standards and has a zero-tolerance policy for theft in the workplace."
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