Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sane Travels

Roadmap to New Air Travel Security System Unveiled by Travel Industry:

The U.S Travel Association and a panel of travel and security experts today unveiled 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.

Among the better suggestions for improvement:

•Implement a risk-based trusted traveler program. Congress should authorize TSA to implement a new, voluntary, government-run trusted traveler program that utilizes a risk-based approach to checkpoint screening, with the goal of refocusing resources on the highest risk passengers;

This has been talked about for years and I believe some version of it is in place in some locations. But to really make a difference it needs to be much broader.

•Improve preparation of travelers. Industry stakeholders should work with TSA to improve their education and communication on security rules and regulations, targeting locations and sources that travelers are likely to review as they book or prepare for a trip;

Here's a simple one that I've noticed more at foreign airports than in the US. Have large, easy to understand signs in the security lines that explain exactly what people need to do when they reach the front. Shoes off, laptops out, liquids bagged, pockets completely empty, whatever the requirements are, clearly spell them out ahead of time.

•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;

The rise in the number of bags carried-on not only makes security lines worse, it also adds considerable time to boarding and deplaning. Some people have very valid reasons for carrying-on, but others have been driven to this behavior by the airlines charging for checked luggage. One free bag per person sounds reasonable.

•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.;

This is a major annoyance and potential cause for missing a flight for international travelers. After you go through a security and screening procedure (that is often more extensive than what you typically go through in the US) at a foreign airport before a flight to the US, you have go through security again before boarding your domestic connecting flight. If your connection time is tight and the security lines are long, you're screwed.