TSA To Launch Trial Trusted Airport Traveler Program


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TSA To Launch Trial Trusted Airport Traveler Program

By Mike Mitchell

June 24, 2011 - Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator John Pistole said on Wednesday the agency expects to launch a trial trusted traveler program for some passengers later this year. Implementing a trusted traveler program was a key recommendation of U.S. Travel’s March 2011 report on aviation security. 

"We're working with airlines, U.S. carriers initially, to say for those who are willing to share information about themselves, what can we gain from that that would help us make informed judgments" about passenger security, Pistole told the Senate Homeland Security Committee. 

The U.S. Travel Association strongly supports TSA’s efforts to implement a risk-based trusted traveler program where travelers can opt in and voluntarily provide background information to qualify for expedited screening, similar to trusted traveler programs operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. 

“We are extremely pleased to hear Administrator Pistole plans to implement a trial trusted traveler program as early as this fall,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “U.S. travelers will greatly appreciate TSA’s responsiveness on this issue.” 

The U.S Travel Association and a panel of travel and security experts unveiled back in March a groundbreaking plan to improve security at America's airports and reduce the burden on travelers. Among the most notable recommendations are the creation of a trusted traveler program and a requirement that travelers be allowed to check at least one bag at no additional cost to the ticket price as a means to reduce the amount of luggage going through the security checkpoint. 

The need for reform was made especially clear by recent research revealing that travelers are avoiding two to three trips per year due to unnecessary hassles associated with the security screening process. These avoided trips come at a cost of $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 titled “A Better Way: Building a World-Class System for Aviation Security,” and called on Congress to own responsibility for improving the current system through effective policy decisions. U.S. Travel and its panel of experts set out to achieve three primary goals: 


1. Improve the TSA checkpoint by increasing efficiency, decreasing passenger wait times and screening passengers based on risk;

2. Generate greater governmental efficiency and cooperation in executing its security responsibilities; and

3. Restructure America's national approach to aviation security by developing and using risk management methods and tools. 

“While our government and passengers deserve credit for preventing another terrorist attack like what happened nearly 10 years ago on 9/11, each day in the United States roughly two million air travelers are advised to arrive upwards of two hours before a flight in order to be processed through a one-size-fits-all security screening system,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.  

“The country that put a man on the moon, invented the Internet and creates daily innovations in manufacturing can and must do better in screening passengers and improving our air travel experience. Air travel is the gateway to commerce and an improved experience is directly tied to job creation and a stronger economy.” 

The blue ribbon panel created by U.S. Travel was chaired by former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, former Congressman Jim Turner and Sam Gilliland, president and chief executive officer of Sabre Holdings. The panel consisted of former top officials from DHS and TSA; 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.   

In helping U.S. Travel introduce the report, former Secretary Ridge said: “A strong aviation security screening system must feature several characteristics, including efficient methods of deterring and interdicting terrorists and criminals; tailored security based upon risk assessment; frequent, clear communication with the traveling public; and cost-effective use of resources.”

Dow acknowledged the complexity of addressing the current challenges, noting solutions will require cooperation, and possibly sacrifices by airlines, airports, the broader travel industry, the traveling public, federal agencies and the Congress, which he said must take responsibility for leading change.

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