Travelers review TSA, suggest changes

Tuesday - 3/22/2011, 9:41am EDT

Geoff Freeman, executive vice president, U.S. Travel Association

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

One thing you can say about the airport screening procedures used by the Transportation Security Administration: they work. There has been no successful airline terror attack since 9/11.

At the same time, many travelers are saying they're avoiding trips because of the hassle factor of flying.

"Our industry can't afford that, our economy can't afford that," Geoff Freeman, executive vice president, of the U.S. Travel Association told Federal News Radio. So the Association put together a panel to find a better way.

After a year-long analysis, the panel has released its recommendations.

First, Freeman told the Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Amy Morris, there should be some type of Trusted Traveler program. "You have so many listeners today, Amy, who are already cleared from a security perspective: Who have already gone through background checks and criminal checks and biometric checks. What we need to do is find an alternative system for people whom we trust. That doesn't mean they avoid all screening. It means they have an alternative system and we can focus our limited resources on those who have not provided us with as much information."

Make the program voluntary, said Freeman. In addition, the panel recommends allowing TSA to take full control of the security line and eliminating baggage fees. According to Freeman, the implementation of those fees has led to a "massive increase" in the number of bags coming through the security checkpoint. Allowing one free bag, argues the panel, would discourage that.

A closer look finds very few recommendations to change the TSA itself. "The fact is," said Freeman, "that the folks at TSA are doing all they can with the limited resources they can, and the directives they get from Congress. The real problem here rests with congress."

Freeman added TSA seems to already be out in front of some of the changes.

"We need to give, first of all, Administrator Pistole and others in TSA leadership credit for beginning to already take a fresh look at this. At a meeting recentely," said Freeman, "with Administrator Pistole, he cited the fact that they too are looking at some way are looking at some way of looking at some way of looking at what he referred to as 'known travelers' based on their frequency of flying and other characteristics. So TSA is already moving in a positive direction. We need Congress to embrace them moving in a much more bold direction."