Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport: Secured for Only 19.5 Hours Per Day

Investigative reporters, using hidden camera footage, found that security at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport essentially shuts down for four and half hours a day. During that time, the TSA goes home, and airport security guards take over. Anyone with an employee badge walks through to the secure side of the airport. They could be carrying backpacks, duffel bags, or maybe even a shopping cart. It doesn’t get inspected.

Employee: “I’m telling you Sky Harbor’s not safe and hasn’t been for a long time.”

It’s what we discovered in the middle of the night – TSA agents going away, and security guards taking over. It’s 4.5 hours – every night – when an employee badge becomes an all-access pass.

Night after night, our hidden cameras captured what security experts tell us is a disaster waiting to happen.

The X-ray machines were off, the metal detectors were closed, and bags with unknown contents were carried to the secure side of the airport where the planes are.

We watched as a security guard let people with purses, coolers and suitcases
walk right through – bags unchecked.

Boy, I’m sure glad we have to take off our shoes and dump out our bottled water.

And terrorists could never ever ever get their hands on an employee badge, could they?…

Thanks to reader Jared!

Serious Security Questions at Sky Harbor Airport []
(Photo: redjar)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Thrust says:


    It’s not like all the security BS worked anyways.

  2. bluegus32 says:

    Centuries go by and nothing changes.

    “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
    Macbeth, William Shakespeare

    All of these security measures are just designed to make the idiot masses feel more secure. Kind of the same reason we went to war with Iraq — so we could feel like something was being done. To actually get things done — we don’t have the stomach for that.

    But at least we all feel better.

  3. banned says:

    Always looking on the down side of things. Of course nobody mentions the 19.5 hours they do work, well that they are at least present to work anyways.

  4. bedofnails says:


  5. Bay State Darren says:

    The title’s misleading. It should read: “…TSA present only 19.5 hours per day. Considering how inept those guys are, maybe this airport becomes more secure for those 4.5 hours.

  6. castlecraver says:

    What? They couldn’t find enough power-tripping high school dropouts to work the graveyard shift? C’monnnnn….

  7. EtherealStrife says:

    how about we turn those 4.5 into 24?

  8. Transuranic says:

    I KNEW there was a way for me to brush my teeth on the plane.

  9. Murph1908 says:

    I once heard that Phoenix was an (if not the) epicenter of terrorist activity on US soil.

    Though I don’t believe everything I hear, I did go to Phoenix last summer, and on my first day there, I saw two NSA agents on the street. I had never seen one in public in my life to that point, and I actually work 200 yards from an NSA building near DC.

    I think this IS the correct way to frame this story, stating that the airport is not secure for over 1/6th of the day. During that time, a guy could take 4 or 5 guns, hide them in the bathroom on the secure side, and they could easily be taken onto a plane from that point.

    I agree, much of the TSA is fluff. But c’mon. This is a way to get the real stuff on a plane.

  10. huertanix says:

    I was wondering why there were rent-a-cops at the security gates when I came back from Hawai’i at midnight…

  11. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    Come on now guys…terrorists are at home at that time dreaming about the virgins they will have when they die a “rightous” death… Its cool no one would ever come by when nobody is looking. They always try to go thru at the time when everyone is vigilant…you know just to see if they can.

  12. msthe8r says:

    Oh, that’s nothing! Last summer, after being trapped on the Newark runway for seven hours and a four hour flight (only the first leg), I arrived at Sky Harbor in the wee hours of the AM in SERIOUS need of a cigarette. I slipped out…and wasn’t allowed to reenter the security checkpoint, since the TSA was “off-duty” until 5AM. At least, that was the rule, which I obeyed, given my aversion to arrest. However, the only thing preventing me from crossing was a rope. I didn’t see a guard of any kind, anywhere. Unless I was being watched by camera, I’m pretty sure I could have re-entered the secure area unhindered. Good thing this was before the liquid ban. No telling what I might have done with that water bottle!

  13. MissUpsetter says:

    You know, I’m quite familiar with sky harbor security. I flew out in May and it took me over two hours to get through security. I missed my flight due to them taking their sweet time with everything.

    However, last week, I flew out and forgot to take my liquids baggie out of my purse. I got stopped, of course and got a stern talking to over some bath & body works perfume that was .5 fl oz. However, I forgot that my swiss army knife was in my purse as well, but that baby got right on by! It has like a 3.5″ blade….but who would’ve known that honeysuckle blossom perfume poses more of a threat? They must’ve thought that I was going to terrorize the US airways flight crew with a make over or something. God forbid!!

    Screw sky harbor. It’s the worst aiport EVAAAAARRRRRRRR.

  14. formergr says:


    Though I don’t believe everything I hear, I did go to Phoenix last summer, and on my first day there, I saw two NSA agents on the street.

    Err, how did you know they were NSA agents? I’m not aware they of any NSA uniform…

  15. jpp123 says:

    So what’s the news here – back in 2003 I flew into Burlington VT on a private jet (not on my $$) and found that everybody had gone home – we had to “borrow” a ladder and climb out over the fence! Nobody noticed.

    Airport security is more theatre to assure the stupid than anything else.

  16. dwneylonsr says:

    TSA did jump on this. For what that’s worth.
    So we’re back to 27/7 incompetence by TSA.

  17. alpha says:

    :shrug: I’ve had good experiences at Sky Harbor…Though there was that time my flight changed from a gate in Terminal A to a gate in Terminal B…only to change back to the same gate in Terminal A. That was entertaining.

  18. notallcompaniesarebad says:

    @jpp123: I hope the person that did pay for that flight didn’t pay much for the landing/airport!

  19. lax2prg says:

    come on everyone…this is not at all uncommon. all airports allow employees to gain access planeside without going through security. all this fuss is over nothing. during the day at sky harbor, like all other airports, there are many many many ways credentialed employees bypass security. it’s necessary for the airports to function. if everyone has to go through security to get access to the sterile side of a concourse (or field or anything else), how many security people do you think there will need to be? and who will check those security folks as they come in to work each day?
    i worked at san diego (lindbergh field) and had drive-on privledges. so i could literally drive onto the field with any credentialed vehicle and come in with a truckload of whatever i wanted to. i could also escort any vehicle onto the field. so come on…this is a non-story.

  20. torqueU says:

    TSA pays for airport police (who are often confused with security guards. Police carry guns and can arrest you, security guards generally don’t carry one and can’t arrest) to cover the checkpoint when they go home at the end of the day. Not fiscally responsible to have the check point manned when no flights are leaving ya know? If you didn’t see a police officer/security guard you can bet you’re on camera and being watched. Especially if you happen to be a cute person of the opposite gender of the camera-watcher. I bypass security all the time. But I have had a criminal history background check that showed I have not commited any one of several disqualifying crimes. So I am ‘trusted’. Don’t remember specifically but I think there are about 20 or so. One is arson. Heh. TSA is now doing random checks on employees that bypass the checkpoint looking for prohibited items. I have been searched, id verified and had my briefcase checked. (btw I have passed every time) This is thanks to the yahoo Comair employee in Orlando that was smuggling guns to Puerto Rico. []

    So I guess the point of all this is – you may not see someone at the checkpoint, but they are there. Our checkpoint ALWAYS has a cop around, you just may not be able to see them.