Contractors employed by airlines operating at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) are not providing adequate training to passenger service workers, putting public health and safety at risk, a new report alleges.
The Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy released a report Thursday, July 12th, that examines passenger services provided by airline contractors at LAX, including searching airplanes for suspicious items, staffing security checkpoints and escorting the elderly and passen- gers with disabilities.
In conducting its report, titled “Under the Radar: How Airline Outsourcing of Passenger Services Compromises Security and Service Quality at LAX,” the Alliance for a New Economy surveyed nearly 300 of the approximately 2,500 workers who per- form passenger services at the airport.
The Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, which has helped spearhead the effort to provide a living wage to LAX-area hotel workers, has released studies over the years on working conditions in the city.
The new report says that changes in the airline industry have influenced the airlines to cut costs through methods such as using a low-bid contracting system to provide passenger services.
Among the findings of the report are that the airlines are not ensuring that their contractors provide adequate training to the workers, nor that adequate services are being provided to the elderly and passengers with disabilities.
“We’re very concerned because what we found is that the airlines and their contractors are putting the safety and security of passengers at risk,” alleged the report’s co-author, Carolina Briones of the Alliance for a New Economy.
“They’re really disturbing conditions and they’re affecting the general traveling public. The conditions really need to be improved.”
The alliance conducted the survey in March and April to look into the impact of the contracting system at LAX and the impact on the working conditions of the passenger service employees, as well as the “standards for service quality and security,” Briones said.
What the alliance reports that it has found through the survey is that the employees are not getting adequate training, are having to deal with malfunctioning equipment and are receiving low compensation, she alleged.
According to the report, less than 20 percent of the workers surveyed have received formal training on how to spot fake identifications and ten percent have received training in terminal evacuation procedures.
About 75 percent of wheelchair attendants surveyed reported problems with broken or malfunctioning wheelchairs and more than a third of cabin cleaners surveyed reported not having enough time to change all pillowcases and blankets on the plane, the study said.
Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn said the report has raised a number of concerns, including inadequate training for necessary security func- tions, malfunctioning equipment for passengers with disabilities and inadequate wages for the employees.
“As chair of the Trade, Commerce and Tourism Committee, I am concerned about the quality of service provided to the millions of passengers that visit LAX annually,” Hahn said in a statement. “We must work together to adequately train all personnel and see that equipment such as wheelchairs are functioning properly.”
Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents the LAX area in the 11th Council District, added that he, too, is concerned about the findings of the report.
“We must provide LAX per-sonnel with adequate training to ensure that we provide quality service that reflects our great city,” Rosendahl said.
Hahn introduced a City Council motion Friday, July 13th, requesting that Los Angeles World Airports, the city agency that operates LAX, report to the council’s Trade, Commerce and Tourism Committee on ways to im- prove conditions for the workers.
The airlines are “committed to improving these conditions,” the motion states, and the city Board of Airport Commissioners and airport department are currently working on alternatives to improve the quality of service provided by the workers.
In response to the report, airport spokeswoman Nancy Castles said an airport task force has been developing standards for airline ground handling companies wanting to do business at LAX. The airport department expects to submit a proposal for a Ground Handling Certification Program to the Board of Airport Commissioners later this year, she said.
“The recommendations contained in the LAANE-sponsored [Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy] report will be considered in developing a possible follow-on program for passenger service companies serving LAX airlines,” Castles said.
Airport Commission vice president Val Velasco said airport officials are in the process of verifying the findings in the report and if they are found to be accurate, the issues will “need to be cracked down on.”
“The staff has to find out what’s going on and if the allegations are true, and if they are, we need to find out what we are going to put in place to correct those problems,” Velasco said.
Officials at the airport take issues dealing with security and services to passengers “very seriously” and they want to ensure that no one at the airport is at risk, Velasco added.
The Alliance for a New Economy listed several recommendations in its report for Los Angeles World Airports, including that the department increase its oversight of passenger services. The airport department should use a competitive bidding process to select contractors and institute performance standards for passenger service contractors, including standards for employee training, the report said.
“We’d really like to see the airport step in and increase its oversight of the contractors and create standards that can be enforced,” Briones said.
According to Hahn’s City Council motion, the airport department should report on each of the recommendations in the report with the goal of implementing a policy that addresses the various issues.