As many as 400 more full-time baggage screeners will be hired for Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport over the next few months. The additional staff will speed electronic screening of passengers' checked luggage, said Willie Williams, Atlanta's federal security director. But that won't shorten lines at the main security checkpoint, he said.
Bottlenecks at the checkpoint have eased since four new lanes opened and 59 Transportation Security Administration screeners were added in midsummer. Earlier in the year, it often took travelers 40 minutes or more to get through security during peak times.
The federal government has said that all checked bags must be screened electronically by the end of the year. Williams said Atlanta will meet that deadline, even without the additional hires.
About two-thirds of baggage screeners are working "a significant amount of overtime" to handle the flow of luggage through the world's busiest airport.
"We have a lot of young people who want to pull double shifts all week but we can't let them do that, especially when security is concerned," Williams said.
Williams said he recently got the go-ahead from David Stone, the new chief of the Transportation Security Administration, to "do whatever is necessary to give Atlanta the resources it needs."
The airport is building concrete bunkers to house truck-sized bomb-screening machines. The construction work has forced detours in airport roadways but is progressing smoothly, Williams said. When the project is completed, luggage will travel on conveyor belts to underground rooms to pass through the screening machines.
Atlanta now has 1,200 screeners, including part-timers. Full-time screeners are paid an average of $26,000 to $28,000 a year, WIlliams said.
Applications will be accepted at the Transportation Security Administration Web site, www.tsa.gov.
Potential hires will be referred to an assessment center at a hotel near the airport starting late next week, Williams said.
An applicant must be a U.S. citizen, will have to pass a background check and must be able to repeatedly lift bags weighing up to 70 pounds. Other qualifications are listed on the TSA Web site.