Passengers must be allowed one free checked bag to reduce luggage in security lines, according to the U.S Travel Association and a panel of travel and security experts. The group has unveiled a groundbreaking plan to improve security at America's airports and reduce its burden on travelers.
The need for reform was made especially clear by recent research revealing that travelers are avoiding two to three trips a year due to unnecessary hassles associated with the security screening process. These avoided trips come at a cost of US$85 billion and 900,000 jobs to the American economy.
The recommendations—the culmination of a year-long analysis to remake aviation security screening—were issued in a report, “A Better Way: Building a World Class System for Aviation Security,” which calls on Congress to own responsibility for improving the current system.
U.S. Travel and its panel of experts set out to achieve three primary goals:
- Improve TSA checkpoints by increasing efficiency, decreasing passenger wait times and screening passengers based on risk
- Generate greater governmental efficiency and cooperation in executing its security responsibilities
- Restructure America's national approach to aviation security by developing and using risk management methods and tools
The task force was chaired by former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, former U.S. Rep. Jim Turner (D-Texas) and Sam Gilliland, president and CEO of Sabre Holdings. The panel consisted of former top officials from DHS and TSA as well as representatives from the airline, airport, logistics and security technology sectors and leaders who represent the destinations and other businesses reliant on a functional air travel system.
Rooted in the diverse professional and political viewpoints of the panelists, the group did not always find consensus in how to address the difficult challenges. Among the panel’s recommendations in the report:
- Implement a risk-based trusted traveler program. Congress should authorize the TSA to implement a new, voluntary, government-run trusted traveler program that utilizes a risk-based approach to checkpoint screening, with the goal of refocusing resources on the highest risk passengers
- Improve traveler preparation. Industry stakeholders should work with the TSA to improve their education and communication on security rules and regulations, targeting locations and sources that travelers are likely to review as they book or prepare for a trip
- Encourage fewer carry-on bags. The Department of Transportation should issue regulations requiring airlines to allow passengers one checked bag as part of their base airfares and standardize existing rules covering the quantity and size of items that can be carried onto an airplane
- Reduce duplicative the TSA screening for international arrivals. DHS should enable certain low-risk passengers who are traveling to another domestic airport to forego checked baggage and passenger screening upon landing in the U.S.
- Expand trusted traveler programs to qualified international passengers. DHS should expand access to international trusted traveler programs for international passengers entering the U.S., as well as lead efforts to establish a multinational network of streamlined entry procedures for low-risk travelers
- Give the TSA authority over the entire checkpoint area. Congress should immediately act to clear up confusion over “ownership” of commercial aviation security and authorize the TSA to control the entire security checkpoint starting at the beginning of the security lines and ending after a traveler exits the screening area
- Develop a comprehensive technology procurement strategy. The TSA, in collaboration with technology vendors and the travel community, should develop a comprehensive strategy for implementing necessary checkpoint technology capabilities. Congress should provide multi-year funding plans for the TSA to execute this strategy
- Implement well-defined risk management processes. The Administration should convene an external panel of experts with appropriate security clearances to review the TSA aviation security programs, assess the risk each is designed to mitigate and develop metrics for measuring progress to lessen that risk.
Roger Dow of U.S Travel urges Congress to implement the panel’s recommendations as quickly as possible, pointing out the current aviation security system is discouraging Americans from flying and contributing to a decline in productivity among those who choose to fly.
According to a 2010 survey conducted by Consensus Research, American travelers would take an additional two to three flights per year if the hassles in security screening system were eliminated. According to the same research, a large majority of Americans consider today's security screening system to be "inconsistent," "stressful" and "embarrassing."
Dow concludes: “When combining the staggering economic consequences of the current system with the widely held views of the traveling public—and with the American way of life hanging in the balance—the picture becomes clear. We must find a better way and build a new traveler-focused system for aviation security.”