The Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan is one of the safest in the nation, despite contraband issues and attempts to use the island as a bridge for drug trafficking, Transportation Security Administration officials said.
“Puerto Rico has many threats because of all the contraband happening in the Caribbean. But the TSA in San Juan, like in many other airports in the nation, is going to evolve as threats are evolving,” said José “Joey” Martínez, deputy federal security director for the TSA in Puerto Rico.
To address that, Martínez said in the next year, the LMM will be one of the first airports in the nation to be outfitted with “the most advanced” technology to detect security threats. Last month, the TSA announced its plan to test computed tomography scanners (CT), a state-of-the-art 3-D technology at select U.S. airport checkpoints.
The new technology intends to enhance critical explosives and other threat items detection capabilities at airport checkpoints. Checkpoint CT technology should result in fewer bag checks. In the future, passengers may also be able to leave laptops and liquids in their carry-on bags.
Although Puerto Rico’s airports are not on the list of the sites where the first 15 units will be installed, the TSA confirmed more than 145 units will be in airports by the end of fiscal year 2019. There are TSA operations at more than 460 airports across the United States and its territories.
Another area where Puerto Rico is looking to evolve is in the TSA PreCheck program participation rate. Presently, the LMM has a TSA PreCheck lane available at the Terminal B central checkpoint to handle all passengers who have either paid for the service, or who receive TSA PreCheck on a given day, on a given flight based on their name being run against TSA’s Secure Flight program.
However, there are none available at the Terminal A checkpoint, which essentially processes all of jetBlue’s passengers.
Although Martínez said the volume of registered PreCheck passengers is not high enough yet in Puerto Rico to warrant opening additional lanes, LMM officials are looking to improve the TSA PreCheck process.
“We’re doing an assessment as we speak and will likely have changes to the program within the next 60 days,” he said, while adding that the agency will bump up its promotion efforts to encourage more travelers to sign up for the program that costs $85 for five years to move through the checkpoint inspection process quicker.
“If we see an increment in TSA PreCheck numbers in San Juan, we may open another lane,” he said.
The TSA Puerto Rico operation includes the LMM, as well as airports in Ponce and Aguadilla, and St. Thomas and St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Martínez said.
It has some 520 employees, of which 300 are assigned to the LMM airport, in different capacities, including the familiar “blue shirt” inspectors, canine units, regulatory units, cargo inspectors and armed air marshals aboard flights, among other divisions.