No Quick Fix Seen for Long LAX Lines

Times Staff Writer

City Council members sympathized with airport officials Wednesday who testified that in the next few years they cannot significantly shorten lines at Los Angeles International Airport that are vulnerable to a terrorist attack.

The Rand Corp., in a report last fall on security at LAX, made cutting lines in ticket lobbies and at security checkpoints its top recommendation.

Airport officials have said they can’t comply because the cash-strapped airlines and the federal Transportation Security Administration, which manages screeners, are short-staffed.


“What we have control over, we are doing,” said Councilwoman Janice Hahn, after hearing testimony from airport officials at a meeting of the council’s Commerce, Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“What we don’t have control over is additional airline and TSA staff. We can tell them, in the name of security, we believe we need more staffing at ticket counters and checkpoints, but we can’t make them do that.”

Airline representatives told the committee that they are relying on new technologies, such as electronic ticketing machines, and on passengers who print their boarding passes at home to reduce queues.

Lines at LAX will decrease by 50% by 2008 after installation of a new $400-million luggage system, airport officials testified.

Rand recommended adding 5% more agents at ticket counters to speed passengers into the more secure boarding gate areas. A consultant hired by airport officials, however, found that airlines would have to hire 25% to 75% more personnel to reduce lines during peak periods.

Mayor James K. Hahn called for the Rand study last spring after the council threatened to hire a firm to conduct a security analysis of his $11-billion modernization plan. Lines in ticket lobbies at LAX have grown since new baggage and passenger screening requirements were put in place after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Rand stands by its study and insists that it remains urgent to reduce lines at LAX.

At a second security-related airport meeting Wednesday, the city’s Airport Commission questioned consultants about a report released last week that recommended that the LAX police force remain independent.

Consultants from CTI Consulting in Bethesda, Md., told the commissioners that merging the LAX police with the LAPD would cause a disruption that could put travelers at risk while the “country is fighting a war on terror.”

“Now is not the time to go through an upheaval of a system that’s working,” said Ken Cox, lead researcher on the $900,000 study.

Hahn, LAPD Chief William J. Bratton and other city leaders have called for the LAX police to be merged with the LAPD, arguing that it would eliminate confusion.

The Airport Commission voted to accept the 104-page report’s recommendations, which urged the airport police and the LAPD to work more closely together, and asked airport staff to come up with a plan to implement the findings in the next 30 days.