Orlando International Airport could soon become one of the few large US airports to turn to a private company to perform the traveller screening functions currently conducted by the federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

TSA agents at airport security checkpoints may seem unavoidable, but a little-known rule allows airports to subcontract security functions to private firms.

To date, 22 of the approximately 450 airports in the US have done so, according to a report by Click Orlando.

There are currently 15 private companies competing for such contracts under the “screening-partnership programme.” Airports are prohibited from spending more than the total cost of TSA operations if they want to privatize their security operations.

The Greater Orlando Aviation Authorities will vote on February 23 on whether to retain its TSA agents or go private.

Orlando is the busiest airport in Florida and the 13th largest in the US, handling 44.6 million passengers annually. The airport has been straining to keep pace with passenger volume, with a pair of TSA security checkpoints seen as a particular bottleneck.

TSA officials said that its operations in Orlando are among the best in the nation and that  problems could be alleviated by adding more security screening lanes, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

Surveys show that the TSA-led security operation in Orlando receives higher marks from travellers than that at San Francisco International Airport, the largest airport to date to use private contractors at security checkpoints.