By Quentin Fottrell
The Transportation Security Administration this week announced the new membership of its Aviation Security Advisory Committee, but passenger rights advocates complain they are still not adequately represented. As expected, some of the TSA’s biggest critics were not invited to the party.
Passengers should be represented on the ASAC, which was established in 1989 following the destruction of Pan American World Airways Flight 103 by a terrorist bomb, groups say. “Where’s the passenger advocate?” says syndicated columnist and consumer advocate Christopher Elliott. Kate Hanni, founder of FlyersRights.org, agrees. “There are virtually no consumer advocates on this committee,” she says. “It’s again frontloaded with the [airline] industry.”
The 24-member committee includes people who have been directly affected by terrorist attacks. Hanni notes the inclusion of one passenger advocate, Glenn Johnson, board chairman of the Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, Inc., set up by families of those killed by a bomb on Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland on Dec. 21, 1988.
It’s no coincidence that TSA’s biggest critics were excluded, says Hanni, who supports having airport body scanners removed as a primary screening method.
But the TSA disagrees and insists it did not renege on earlier promises to include passenger advocates as well as law enforcement and security experts, airport operators, airline management, aircraft and security equipment manufacturers. “The Aviation Security Advisory Committee plays a vital role in helping TSA continuously enhance our ability to ensure the security of the traveling public,” TSA Administrator John S. Pistole said in a statement. A spokeswoman for TSA says: “IAPA and the Global Business Travel Association represent the interests of airline passengers within ASAC’s aviation consumer advocates category.” The GBTA is a travel management and consulting company.
Michael A. Cintron, director of consumer and industry affairs at the International Airline Passengers Association, which sells insurance to frequent fliers, is on the committee. Hanni says it’s a for-profit group that is not devoted exclusively to passenger rights. According to IAPA’s website, it provides insurance products for frequent flyers, and other products and services.
However, critics say this is another example of a group that provides services to the industry rather than campaigning for passenger rights. “They will not take a stand against the airlines because they sell goods and services related to the airlines,” Hanni says. Cintron did not respond to requests for comment.
Here’s a full list of the committee members: