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Staff shortage prompts terminal shutdown in Boston

BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) -- A shortage of trained security personnel from a fired security firm forced the shutdown of a US Airways terminal at Boston's Logan International Airport Thursday morning, officials said, delaying hundreds of passengers in the early days of the holiday travel season.

Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) spokesman Phil Orlandella said that the Federal Aviation Administration had notified state police at the airport that one of the US Airways checkpoints was inadequately staffed.

"That prompted us to take precautions and evacuate the US Airways regular area and the shuttle area," Orlandella said. Orlandella said the FAA did not provide details about the staffing problem.

David Castelveter, a US Airways spokesman, said the shutdown had a "minimal impact" on the airline's operations.

The security checkpoint was staffed by Argenbright Security, which is scheduled to halt operations at all Massport properties on Friday. Argenbright's departure was part of an agreement reached last month with Massport after the airport operator pulled Argenbright's license because of several other security lapses at Logan.

An FAA source told CNN that FAA inspectors, observing the screening procedures at Logan, had noticed movement by two screeners between screening machines. The inspectors questioned a screening supervisor about the movement, and were told that some screeners at the two points had no training.

The FAA ordered Logan's Terminal B shut down and called back at least four planes that had already pulled away from the gate, Orlandella said.

Passengers on those planes and others that had already begun boarding -- about 1,000 passengers in all -- were deplaned and rescreened. The incident began at about 9:45 a.m., Orlandella said, and by 11:15 a.m. the passengers had begun reboarding.

Argenbright has history of problems

Massport pulled Argenbright's license after employees left their stations unattended on two occasions, in one case forcing the re-screening of hundreds of passengers.

The agreement which ends Argenbright operations at Logan also calls for Argenbright to stop operations at Hanscom Airfield in Bedford, but the company can continue to provide security at other Massachusetts facilities such as Suffolk Downs horse track and the Hynes Convention Center.

Argenbright, which has been under federal investigation, was also the security firm involved in Chicago in October when a man slipped by a screening area at O'Hare International Airport with knives and a stun gun.

Besides Logan and O'Hare, Argenbright provides security at several other airports nationwide, including Philadelphia International Airport, Newark International Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport.

Three Argenbright managers pleaded guilty in May 2000 to crimes involving Argenbright's employment practices at Philadelphia International Airport. The company was put on probation for three years, and was ordered to pay $1.55 million in fines and restitution and set up "a mandatory and comprehensive compliance program."

Last month, the Department of Justice filed a motion against Argenbright charging violations of the probation.

The two hijacked flights that crashed into the World Trade Center September 11 originated at Logan, although Argenbright was not under contract to provide security for either of the airlines involved. Argenbright is used in Boston by US Airways, Delta, Delta Shuttle and America West.


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