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More Calls for ‘Trusted Traveler’ Program

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The U.S. Travel Association (USTA), a travel business trade group, issued the latest in a growing chorus of calls for a trusted traveler program. The proposal is part of a larger set of recommendations, chaired by what the USTA calls a “blue ribbon panel,” consisting of former Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge; former Congressman Jim Turner; and Sam Gilliland, president and chief executive officer of Sabre Holdings.

Similar to the International Air Transport Association’s proposal from last year, the USTA’s plan advocates a risk-based approach that allows passengers to opt into a trusted traveler program. But whereas the IATA addressed security checkpoints only, the USTA goes a step further, offering suggestions for streamlining most aspects of the TSA’s operations. Here are some highlights:

  • Facilitate non-partisan leadership of TSA. The TSA Administrator should be converted to a five-year position extending across presidential administrations to be filled by a non-partisan official with expertise in both security and facilitation.”
  • Reduce duplicative 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.”
  • Encourage fewer carry-on bags. The Department of Transportation (DOT) should issue regulations requiring airlines to allow passengers one checked bag as part of their base airfare and standardize existing rules covering the quantity and size of items that can be carried onto an airplane.”
  • Encourage wider use of secure identification documents. Federal and state governments should embrace programs that build and deploy secure identification documents in order to provide higher-quality identity documents to the traveling public that meet government security requirements.”

In a release, the USTA called its proposals “groundbreaking.” That’s a bit of marketing hyperbole, of course—much of what the USTA suggests has been floated before, either formally or informally—but this is a solid batch of common sense ideas nonetheless. I like the idea of a five-year term for the TSA Administrator, and although the position doesn’t strike me as especially “partisan” right now, increased stability in that role would likely be a good thing.

The carry-on bag proposal has about as much hope as a chicken in a shark tank, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. I’d also extend a hearty “yes, please,” to the idea of ditching the mid-trip screening for international passengers. The only thing worse than airport security is going through it twice on the same day.

Readers, what do you think about the USTA’s ideas for fixing the TSA?

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