Washington, DC – The U.S. Travel Association today called on the federal government to accelerate the creation of a “trusted traveler” program, which would result in an air travel security screening process that is more secure, efficient and effective.
“There is a shared sense of a better, smarter way to make the air travel security system more secure and efficient for travelers,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “We believe a trusted traveler program should be the centerpiece of an enhanced air travel security process.”
In such a program, travelers who voluntarily share biometric and biographical information, pass robust background checks to confirm their “low-risk” nature and are verified by TSA at the time of travel would be allowed to pass through an alternative security process. Such a program would enable the shift of security resources from a large pool of “low-risk” travelers to allow a more sustained focus on a smaller pool of travelers who are not pre-screened to determine their level of risk.
“The vast majority of the traveling public poses little threat to our nation’s security, yet the current approach subjects every passenger to the same security procedures,” said Dow. “A trusted traveler program would allow us to focus more security where it is most needed, while reducing unnecessary hassles for the majority of low risk travelers. Surely the United States can find a way to implement such a common sense approach.”
U.S. Travel called for the creation of a new trusted traveler program on the heels of the Department of Homeland Security’s announcement that 100 percent of domestic and inbound passengers are now being checked against government watch lists in a program known as Secure Flight.
“Secure Flight has been a successful partnership between airlines, online reservation systems and the government to ensure that known risks are not allowed access to aircraft flying within the U.S.,” said Dow. “It provides a glimpse of what more efficient security might look like.”
The U.S. Traveler Association outlined the following general principles that should guide the creation of a Trusted Traveler program:
- Screen passengers for security risks prior to checkpoints. A trusted traveler program would allow for a pre-screening process before travelers arrive at the airport. This risk assessment would reduce bottlenecks at the airport and allow security resources to be diverted from the vast majority of passengers who are extremely low-risk.
- Refocus security resources. Directing TSA’s screening resources, technologies and specialized skills towards a smaller pool of passengers whose backgrounds and travel habits are less known will increase public confidence in security procedures and ensure the most effective use of TSA resources.
- Deter potential threats. Creating an effective, efficient approach to security will alleviate congestion at security chokepoints, which themselves represent an attractive target to would-be terrorists.
- Guard Americans’ privacy and civil liberties. Eliminating many physical security measures for passengers who opt in to a trusted traveler program will strengthen public trust that the federal government is working to balance privacy, civil liberties, efficiency and security of air travelers who are verified as being “low risk.”
U.S. Travel recommends that TSA pursue a trusted traveler program that is operated by the federal government, includes a security-based approach and provides for variations in the TSA screening process.
The U.S. Travel Association has convened a Blue Ribbon Panel for Frictionless Aviation Security comprised of industry and security experts and former government officials to make recommendations on how to improve air travel security in a way that maximizes security and minimizes the burden on travelers. The panel is expected to issue its report in early 2011, including specific details related to the proposed trusted traveler program.
Cathy Keefe 202-408-2183