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Airline Group Wants Shorter Waits At Airports
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Ten years after 9-11, a lobby group for the airlines is pushing congress and the Transportation Security Agency for changes in airport security. The U.S. travel association wants what it calls a “trusted traveler” program to speed security and encourage airline passengers to take more trips.
It’s early morning rush at Port Columbus. Check-in and security lines have already formed. Roger Ertsgaard is checking departures on the big screen in the lobby. He wants to get back to his Florida home as quickly as possible.
“Its unfortunate that 12 people can cause millions and millions and millions of people to have to go through that security line,” Ertsgaard said.
Security lines have been a staple at U.S. airports now for a decade. And spokeswoman Cathy Keefe of the U.S. Travel Association said the lines are taking both a personal and an economic toll.
“Right now nobody knows what they’re going to experience at the airport,” she said.
Keefe describes the current airport security system as “one size fits all.” She said that discourages would-be fliers from taking additional trips each year.
“And when we surveyed travelers, we found they would actually take two to three more trips per year if there was less of a hassle factor involved, without compromising security,” Keefe said.
But it’s difficult to quantify whether airport security deters travelers. Year-to-date numbers at Port Columbus, for instance, show 2.5 million passengers have arrived or departed at the airport during the first five months of the year. That’s a slight increase in passengers, up about 1.6 percent. Adrienne and Oswald Russell are returning home after visiting relatives in Columbus. The couple has a baby in tow. Both said personal safety trumps any security frustrations they’re put through. Oswald said he just shows up at the airport a little bit earlier.
“Primarily I’m traveling with the family. So, its important to my wife and everything for her to come up and spend time with her side of the family and also my little girl. That takes far precedence than me having to be mad I gotta take my shoes off,” Oswald said.
“I don’t see anything wrong with the security because, I mean, it keeps us safe,” Adrienne said. “I’ve never felt violated, so I can only speak from a personal level. But, I feel like it’s necessary because, I mean, how else are we going to stay safe if we don’t have good, tight security?”
Carolyn Meier of Worthington expresses similar sentiments as she headed off to California to visit a family member.
“No, I’d rather they have the security than not,” Meier said. “It just seems kind of people don’t care, and I would rather have the security and know that I’m safe.”
This fall, the Transportation Security Administration is considering a pilot program, called “trusted traveler.” Keefe said for a fee maybe as much as $150, and an extensive background check, a traveler would be allowed to bypass some security checkpoints.
“The idea is that a traveler would be able to keep on their shoes, keep on their belts, keep on their coats and keep their laptops in their bags,” she said.
And Keefe said that in turn would help speed all check-in and security lines and perhaps encourage fliers to take off more often.