Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 27, 2011

TSA’S Baggage Problem

Filed under: Aviation Security — by Jessica Herrera-Flanigan on March 27, 2011

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.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

March 28, 2011 @ 12:37 am

Great post and sensible ideas. Some out of the box approaches may be needed. Like baggage being shipped separately from passengers. Screening of passengers away from the terminal with buses bring them to terminal. Changing the way airport security works in its entirety. More sniffers! Developing new personalized ticketing and boarding passes and procedures. Etc. etc.

Hey the airlines are heavily subsidized on security so just make them pay and their passengers and increase fares and decrease air travel! I know that makes no sense except perhaps environmentally, safety wise, etc. etc. Those traveling for family reasons could be the only ones subsidized. Stop subsidizing business travel and promote video conferencing.

And stop pretending the airlines are not heavily subsidized by the tax rules and other hidden subsidies. There is some indication that an honest economic study of the airline industry like the banking industry would indicate it has never actually made any profit without government subsidy.

Comment by John G. Comiskey

March 28, 2011 @ 8:36 am

TSA-unrequited homeland security practitioners.

9/11 exposed the vulnerabilities of air security. It is replete with opportunities for terrorists and criminals.

I observe TSA officials grappling with water bottles, laptops, shoes et al. I understand that bad people put bombs in water bottles, ink cartridges, body cavities, and are imagining where else to put them.

Recently, we have had to endure repeated messages by flight attendants to quickly stow carryon luggage and for those unlucky few who did not find any space in the overheads because more people are bringing carryon luggage to check their luggage in -at the front of the plane. I understand that the airlines are a commercial enterprise and want to make money and see an opportunity to charge for luggage -notwithstanding increased fuel costs.

A risk management approach seems academically sound. But, is it implementable -can we establish special lines and procedures for those who are nudge able and desire fast-track opportunities.

I opt for video-conferencing when available ….others will too.

Terrorists on the other applaud risk-based prevention initiatives complemented by random searches and anything else that impedes civilized life and costs a lot too.

Comment by Christopher Bellavita

March 29, 2011 @ 12:50 am

Re: “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.”

I wonder if there are data about the (estimated) costs to passengers of the aviation security procedures since 9/11/01, or estimates about benefits.

Comment by More Stringent Security Methods Required

March 29, 2011 @ 2:17 am

It is of immediate concern to not only US carriers, but I believe even more so to the Europeans that distancing baggage from passenger will prove much more beneficial — if my perception of a Europe overwhelmed w/uprisings and threats carried out by its Islamic populations, the Europeans must today begin to implement new and far more s stringent requirements along the lines of William Cumming herein and his thoughts – these “changes” will certainly go along way as well in making trans Atlantic flights more secure —

As this Middle East sees a far more violent and anti-western posture by an evolving Egypt in particular very much in support of a more Islamic fundamentalist governing and the same for most as a result of this revolution transgressing the whole of the Middle East, the “Brutes of Tehran” are stirring the pot every which way unrestrained by the west and whether in Lebanon, Syria, even Ethiopia shortly, Libya, Yemen, etc., as an international commodities trader, more and more of my global business pursuits find me in teh Pacific Rim versus the Mediterannean as I expect much disruption in shipping and already I see a dramatic slowdown in business in Algeria for instance in hesitating future pricing or signing contracts for few really know what will transpire in three, six and certainly 12 months out…

This brings up shipping via vessel – my business. I have always been a proponent of more scrutiny of containers obviously contrary to business objectives, but more concerned with port and vessel secuirity, even the Europeans will have to take a more aggressive role as here in our port management, more security for vessels and containers – placing more demand on the US Coast Guard and Congressional approval of more monies for such….

Let’s hope for a better outcome to this evolving Middle East revolution scenario, yet I am most confident that humanity is once again to be tested as in history and the challenges will possibly prove to be….

Let’s hope this quest to control Jerusalem and both Christian (Vatican)/German led EU and these “Brutes of Tehran” who I reference will somehow be able to find a way. They will not, hence, let’s figure out today a new baggage system here in the US and in Europe – let’s use technolgy to our advantage in every possible way – also, “cybersecurity” another on the priority list!

Christopher Tingus

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