Airlines should be required to allow passengers one checked bag as part of their base airfare. That’s one of the many recommendations U.S. Travel has come up with to make air travel less burdensome while improving security. And it is asking Congress to act on them now.

The recommendations are part of a new report titled “A Better Way: Building a World Class System for Aviation Security,” which calls for a revamp the air travel security screening process. The current system is hurting the economy as travelers are avoiding two to three trips per year because of the hassles of air travel, according to a 2010 study. These avoided trips come at a cost of $85 billion and 900,000 jobs to the American economy, said U.S. Travel officials.

For the study, U.S. Travel assembled a panel of experts that included former Department of Homeland Security and Transportation Security Administration officials, as well as representatives from the airline, airport, hospitality, security, technology, and logistics sectors. Former DHS Secretary Tom Ridge is one of the chairs. Here are the key recommendations:

  • 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;
  • 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 prepare for a trip;
  • Encourage fewer carry-on bags. As previously mentioned, the Department of Transportation should require 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;
  • 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.;
  • Expand trusted traveler programs to qualified international passengers.
  • DHS should expand access to international trusted traveler programs for international passengers entering the U.S., as well as lead efforts to establish a multinational network of streamlined entry procedures for low-risk travelers;

  • Give TSA authority over the entire checkpoint area. Congress should immediately act to clear up confusion over “ownership” of commercial aviation security and authorize TSA to control the entire security checkpoint starting at the beginning of the security lines and ending after a traveler exits the screening area;
  • Develop a comprehensive technology procurement strategy. TSA, in collaboration with technology vendors and the travel community, should develop a comprehensive strategy for implementing necessary checkpoint technology capabilities. Congress should provide multi-year funding plans for TSA to execute this strategy;
  • Implement well-defined risk management processes. The Administration should convene an external panel of experts with appropriate security clearances to review TSA aviation security programs, assess the risk each is designed to mitigate, and develop metrics for measuring progress to lessen that risk.
“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.” Dow urged Congress to implement the panel’s recommendations as quickly as possible. U.S. Travel officials have already conducted briefings for key committee staff on Capitol Hill and have received some positive responses so far, said Cathy Keefe, U.S. Travel spokeswoman.

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