Travel Group Says Enough of "One-Size-Fits-All" Airport Security Model

By Matthew Harwood


The report argues that reforming security checkpoints at the airport will go a long way to making commercial aviation more secure, more efficient, and hopefully more profitable. Since 9-11, TSA has increasingly layered passenger screening procedures—from taking off their shoes to going through full body scanners or enhanced pat-downs—that have made passenger screening slower, more expensive, and more burdensome for all stakeholders.

Furthermore, the report fears that the recession has obscured the problem of longer passenger wait-times associated with these new screening procedures and that time-consuming bottlenecks will arise as travelers return to the airport as the economy recovers. The Federal Aviation Administration predicts that the volume of air travelers will increase by 3.7 percent annually over the next five years as the TSA fails to keep passenger wait-times at checkpoints under its own goal of 10 minutes.

"With such steep rises in passenger levels," the report says, "TSA will be hard pressed to control the growth of its budget, wait times at security checkpoints will increase, and the burdens of the current system will slow economic recovery unless Congress and TSA develop a long-term, risk based  strategy to focus assets and resources at the highest priority threats."

According to the U.S. Travel Association, Congress also has to exert more leadership on aviation security and not let TSA become the fall guy after whiplash-like policy shifts. In June 2009, for instance, the House voted overwhelmingly to mandate that full body scanners could not be used for primary screening. Yet six months later, Congress voted to expand the use of full body scanners for primary screening after the botched Christmas Day attack on an aircraft destined for Detroit from Amsterdam. In return, the report notes, the TSA and its screening personnel become the whipping posts for policies implemented by the White House and Congress.

The report also recommended that the Department of Transportation mandate rules that require airlines to include checking one bag in the ticket's price. Since airlines started to charge for checked bags, passengers have responded by carrying on more bags, which leads to longer wait-times at checkpoints due to the higher volume of bags getting screened.

♦ Photo of passenger security line by oddharmonic/Flickr


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