New U.S. Travel Association Study Urges Baggage Legislation

by  Molly Fergus | Mar 16, 2011
Traveler with luggage
Traveler with luggage /

Talks of federally legislated baggage requirements are swirling once again, this time in light of a U.S. Travel Association report released today that recommends the Transportation Security Administration rethink its screening tactics and require airlines to allot each passenger one free piece of checked luggage.

The USTA commissioned the study a year ago, and assigned security and transportation bigwigs Tom Ridge (former secretary of homeland security) and Jim Turner (a former Texas congressman who sat on the House Homeland Security Committee) to the accompanying panel.

The conclusion: The TSA’s current security system, which treats each and every passenger as a potential threat, is ineffective and unnecessarily complicated. Adding to the chaos at screening stations, the study says, is the mountain of carry-on items that most passengers now schlep onto flights in order to save about $25 each way.

The numbers back up this claim: At the beginning of the month, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told congress that security screening costs about $260 million each year, owing in part to more customers carrying on their luggage than ever before.

The federal government could relatively easily initiate a first-bag-free requirement, but the study’s other main suggestion – that the TSA adopt a voluntary “Trusted Traveler” program – would likely require congressional approval.

Similar to the CAPPS II program congress dismissed during the Bush administration, the “Trusted Traveler” measure would let passengers voluntarily hand over personal information such as fingerprints and identification cards to demonstrate that they’re not a significant threat. Once approved, those frequent flyers could speed through security instead of enduring the current airport rigmarole.

We always support measures to eliminate baggage fees, but a pre-approved flyer list could make some travelers anxious. What do you think? Should the TSA implement these suggestions?

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