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.
Attention all airline passengers and those who are unhappy about security procedures at airports: The Transportation Security Administration is rebooting its Aviation Security Advisory Committee with a new collection of experts and advisers. But the TSA won’t say who will represent passengers’ rights on the ASAC – established in 1989 following the destruction of Pan American World Airways Flight 103 by a terrorist bomb – and some of the agency’s biggest critics say they’ve been left off the list of invitees.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, the re-established ASAC will include victims of terrorist acts against aviation, law enforcement and security experts, airport operators, airline management, and aircraft and security equipment manufacturers and – crucially for members of the public – aviation consumer advocates will also be represented. Jonella J. Culmer, a spokeswoman for the TSA, says, “ASAC members have not been finalized or announced at this time.”
However, Kate Hanni, founder of FlyersRights.org, says she asked to be on the committee, but has been already been told that there are no vacancies. In an email exchange with a department official, FlyersRights.org was told it could submit a candidate to participate on sub-committees or public forums. Hanni says her organization could not afford to pay for those monthly trips to Washington D.C. (A full committee member would have such travel expenses paid by the TSA.)
Travelers may soon be able to avoid some of the hassles of airport security lines — the long lines, taking off your shoes and hauling your computer out of its case. That is, if you’re willing to pay and hand over a lot of personal information.
The Transportation Security Administration announced last week that, starting this fall, it will be testing a “trusted traveler” program that will offer special security lines for travelers willing to undergo a background check and pay for the privilege. Those travelers won’t have to remove their shoes or take computers out of their cases, and won’t routinely face a body scanner.
The pilot will be open to select frequent fliers on Delta in Atlanta and Detroit and on American Airlines in Miami and Dallas, as well as some people in those locations who already participate in U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s trusted traveler programs. Eligible travelers will be invited to join in coming weeks. The TSA plans to expand the program to include more airports and airlines but has not said how long that will take to implement.
The Transportation Security Administration is moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach to airport screening. John S. Pistole, TSA administrator, is intent on gradually changing the current system, which could mean a future where some passengers go through a kind of “first-class” security procedure. Imagine this: no frisking, no scanners and no fussing about with your laptop.
Tired of having to take their shoes off or put their carry-on liquids in 3.4 ounce bottles and clear plastic bags, some passengers are clamoring for change. What the TSA hasn’t said is whether it would consider asking passengers to pay for a more streamlined experience. (The TSA declined to comment on that.)
However, the TSA tells Pay Dirt that it’s developing additional ways to further incorporate “identity-based security” into its procedures to strengthen security on board commercial aircraft, while improving the screening experience, but in a way that terrorists can’t game the system.
The Department of Homeland Security remains on heightened alert after the death of Osama bin Laden. That’s reassuring as most of their valiant security efforts go unseen by ordinary travelers. But what about those other security measures? Pay Dirt is thinking of the rules that force you to take off your shoes and pad through the metal detector with a hole in your socks or, worse, carry a bottle of Rogaine through security in a clear plastic bag.
An increasing number of airline passengers are exasperated (and embarrassed) by rules requiring them to take off their shoes and limit carry-on liquid containers to 3.4 ounces in clear plastic bags. George Hobica, creator of Airfarewatchdog.com, is more concerned about the screening of airport staff: “What will be next? Will people have to take off all their clothes? If somebody wanted to sneak something onboard they will.”
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