AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is getting more Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers to help with security screenings as the growing airport prepares for what will likely be an unprecedented summer travel season.
The airport confirmed an additional 15 TSA officers will join 35 supplemental officers already at the airport, bringing the total to 50.
The extra help is part of the agency’s National Deployment Office Program, which sends staff to airports dealing with increased volume — like Austin’s.
The TSA said it is also doubling the number of K-9 units at Austin-Bergstrom.
The airport gave KXAN the following statement Friday:
The Department of Aviation is grateful for the continued collaboration and support from our TSA partners as we work together on the shared goal of improving the AUS passenger experience.Austin-Bergstrom International Airport
The 50 extra officers fall short of the 100 requested by airport CEO Jaqueline Yaft in a March 3 letter to the TSA.
As KXAN reported, the chair of the city’s Airport Advisory Commission, Eugene Sepulveda, recently said the TSA at Austin-Bergstrom has been “seriously understaffed” and “unable to pay a competitive wage” — something the agency refutes.
“Agents are refusing to move to Austin are resigning,” Sepulveda wrote in a series of tweets last weekend.
To attract and keep officers in Austin, the TSA said has doubled the sign-on bonus locally to $2,000 and has approved a 15% retention incentive.
Henry Nnorom, the president of the local chapter of the American Federation of Government Employees, said from his vantage point, it’s been tough to keep TSA staff from leaving for higher paying jobs.
“My members have to compete with people who work at HP, Samsung, Facebook and now Tesla,” Nnorom said.
Earlier in the week, TSA told KXAN it offers cost of living adjustments when it comes to pay.
According to the job postings in Austin, a part-time officer can earn just under $20 per hour to start. Salaries for full-time officers begin at just under $41,500 per year.
At an event Friday, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (who said he nearly missed a flight recently due to security lines) said more needs to be done.
“We’re putting too many people through too few lines,” the Democratic congressman said. “If we’re to maintain this as an international city, we’ve got to have a more welcoming presence at our airport.”
The airport opened an additional security checkpoint in December, bringing the number to four with a total of 17 screening lanes.
An airport spokesperson did not say whether there were plans to expand the number of checkpoints.