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Since September 11th, 2001, national security concerns have been expressed most dramatically in security changes in air travel. This has tremendous potential for impact on summer camp operations. Issues of concern include airport retrieval and departure of campers and their luggage (both traveling as unaccompanied minors and traveling alone). There is concern for coordination of smooth operations at each individual airport with both individual airlines and the personnel of the newly formed Transportation Safety Agency. There is concern for providing information to ease the minds of camp staff, campers and parents.
In several parts of the country, camp directors have put together information from their colleagues and presented a single range of challenges and possible solutions to airport and airline security personnel. If you utilize air transportation frequently, this may be the most efficient way of devising acceptable plans so the airports don’t have to work with each camp individually.
If a number of camps in your area use the same airport, it will be helpful to coordinate your communication and conversations with airport personnel and specific airlines. Your ACA Section can assist in getting groups of directors together. Contact your Section office if interested.
Keep in mind that airports are in different stages of staffing under newly contracted federal security companies. In some airports, new staffing is already in place with procedures identified. In others, federal companies have been identified, but are not yet fully in place. In still others, local security companies previously working for the airport are still in place.
In addition to airport security personnel, airlines also have specific procedures established. Making contact with individual airlines is a necessity, over and above your meeting with airport personnel, if you want to be able to meet and drop off campers at their gate.
It is logical that airlines will be challenged to have enough personnel to deal individually with unaccompanied minors if you have lots of campers arriving or departing on the same day. They will, in most cases, be willing to work with you to find alternative solutions to these challenges.
If you are planning to pick up or drop off campers utilizing charter buses, contact airport security to work out procedures. It is suggested that you start this work now, even though specific procedures are changing frequently in most airports. While airport security may not want to commit to “final procedures” for loading and unloading baggage and campers today, getting your concerns before them in time to deal with alternatives is essential.
Keep in mind that campers, on arrival, will be asked if they packed their own baggage and if it has been in their “control” since they packed it. For most airlines, this means that baggage and campers should be in the same vehicles — not baggage in a truck and campers in a separate car or bus.
Work with airport personnel to find expeditious ways to load and unload baggage and personnel.
Inside the Airport
The ACA suggests that you meet with airline personnel to underscore the importance of meeting unaccompanied minors at the gate. Parents will feel best about this arrangement, as will your campers. Airline personnel recommend the following:
- Campers should limit carry-on baggage to expedite security line procedures.
- Campers and parents should be sure that carry-on baggage does NOT contain items that will require separate screening and/or confiscation such as knives, firearms, flammables, and some sports equipment.
- Campers’ baggage must be with them at all times. It should be carried in the same vehicle as the camper.
- Remind campers not to joke about bombs, guns, hijacking, etc.
- Utilize skycaps wherever possible. Curb-side check-in is more efficient than standing in lines in the terminal.
- Be familiar with the required check-in times at the counter.
Airlines are able to issue Escort Passes to camp personnel, and/or they may prefer to assign an airline employee to each unaccompanied minor. However, they are not required to make such passes available. In all likelihood, to obtain Escort Passes for your staff, individual airlines will require your camp to provide evidence of background checks, social security numbers, photo identification, or other requirements well in advance of the day(s) you plan to meet campers. Recognize that even if such a tentative plan were put in place today, it could change before summer.
It is important to establish relationships with the major carrier(s) in the airports you utilize. Remain flexible. Things are still changing, and the federalization of airport security is not yet complete.
As you learn other facts about individual airports, you may want to share them on the Camp Professionals Discussion Group on the ACA Web site. Also, it will be helpful to keep your Section offices informed of issues in your area. Check the Public Policy area of ACA’s Web site for additional information.
Editor’s Note: Thanks is expressed to Don Cheley of Cheley Colorado Camps and his staff for sharing their experiences with Denver International Airport personnel.
Originally published in the 2002 Spring issue of The CampLine.