Recently, I served as a member of the US Travel Association’s Blue Ribbon Panel for Aviation Security, a group brought together to evaluate aviation security. US Travel, based on recommendations made by the panel, released a report, A Better Way, Building a World Class System for Aviation Security. The report made recommendations, based on the following goals and recommendations:
- Goal Number One – Improve the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint by increasing efficiency, decreasing passenger wait times and screening passengers based on risk
- Implement a risk-based Trusted Traveler program
- Give TSA authority over entire checkpoint area
- Improve preparation of travelers
- Encourage fewer carry-on bags
- Goal Number Two – Improve governmental efficiency and cooperation in the execution of its security responsibilities
- Reinstitute the Aviation Security Advisory Committee
- Facilitate non-partisan leadership of TSA
- Develop a comprehensive technology procurement strategy
- Encourage wider use of secure identification documents
- Reduce duplicative TSA screening for international arrivals
- Expand trusted traveler programs to qualified international passengers
- Eliminate duplication between TSA and CBP
- Push for international cooperation with U.S. security standards
- Goal Number Three – Restructure our national approach to aviation security by developing and utilizing real risk management methods and tools
- Implement well-defined risk management processes
If there was an underlying theme throughout the paper and recommendations, it is “let’s ensure that aviation security is risk-based and we have an established risk management process.” A risk-based Trusted Traveler concept is one for which TSA Administrator Pistole has advocated in front of Congress and various business groups over the last several months.
One recommendation for which security concerns may not be apparent at first blush but is costing millions and will be a huge problem if unaddressed is the number of carry-ons being brought onto planes. The recent trend of airlines charging travelers for any checked bags is forcing a number of passengers to bring more carry-on bags onto each flight. The result: increased checkpoint congestion and the government having to dedicate more resources, equipment, and personnel to screen passenger bags. Secretary Napolitano, earlier this month, estimated during a Congressional hearing that the extra carry-on baggage generated by checked baggage fees is costing TSA $260 million.
What will happen as the economy improves and more people begin to fly more? What types of costs, delays, and congestion will result? Is it really a good use of our security resources to force TSA to focus on screening carry-on bags instead of looking for terrorist threats?
The report recommends that the Department of Transportation issue regulations requiring that airlines allow all passengers one checked bag, even if that bag is limited to the size of a carry-on bag. It also recommends that DOT set standards for the number and size of items that a passenger can bring on a plane. These are common-sense recommendations that will not only make the experience of travelers better but will allow our security officials to focus on security, as opposed to random bags.