TSA partners with travel groups to rebuild passenger confidence

Tuesday, November 17, 2020
ASTA Summit photo

During these challenging times of COVID-19, partnerships are crucial in rebuilding confidence among the traveling public, and TSA is right in the middle of this team effort.

TSA Policy, Plans and Engagement Deputy Assistant Administrator Victoria Newhouse shared TSA’s latest screening policies and technology in an online panel discussion with four other leaders from the travel industry during the 2020 American Society of Travel Advisors Premium Business Summit. The summit’s goal this year was to confront the seemingly constant news headlines surrounding the pandemic and tackle how to lead and strategize in this time of disruption.

CBS News Anchor/Producer Wendy Gillette moderated the panel discussion.

Newhouse, responsible for issuing TSA’s security policies and requirements, said TSA has a great partnership with the travel industry, sharing information, learning from scientists, looking at private sector studies and working with TSA’s domestic and international partners.

“Those of you who have had a chance to travel have noticed the new airport environment looks a little different,” said Newhouse. “We’ve deployed over 1,200 acrylic barriers around the [traveler document checker] station [at the checkpoint] where you show your identification and turned around the machines so passengers can do more of what we call self-service, checking their identification. When your bag goes through screening on the checkpoint lanes, there’s less touching of your things. We’ve been able to enhance not only our technology, but our procedures.”

Newhouse told the travel leaders TSA created a communicable disease playbook to make sure employees stay heavily focused on sanitization and other equipment needs.

“Protecting our workforce and the traveling public is our priority, and security is still our middle name,” Newhouse said. “We’ve managed to work very closely with all of our partners to understand what the needs are and adjust.”

Despite the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, Newhouse is optimistic about the future as we head toward the holiday travel season and beyond.

“With our Stay Healthy. Stay Secure. campaign and with all of our domestic government and international partners, we’ve been able to adjust without degrading security,” she noted. “It’s less touching of your things, yourselves. We’ve been able to test some of these [technologies] on our TSA PreCheck® lanes to make them more touchless, remain secure, remain healthy.”

Newhouse said TSA has tried to be as transparent as possible during the pandemic, providing as much information to passengers as the agency can to reassure the traveling public.

“It’s our job to help rebuild confidence in our travel system,” added Newhouse, who believes partnerships are key to that effort.

She said, “Our partners at American Airlines just launched the ability to check your bag using your biometrics, your fingerprints, at Dallas-Fort Worth and my home airport in D.C. (Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport). We’ve worked very closely with our partners to build that confidence, to be able to implement what seems to be a more self-service, check-in and travel experience.”

Over the last several months, TSA has worked closely with the agency’s medical professionals, chief medical officer, airline partners, the cruise line industry and surface transportation operators to enhance safety while maintaining strong security. Newhouse pointed out that, as an example, TSA adjusted its policies to work with cruise lines and U.S. Customs and Border Protection to bring home over 100,000 Americans in the early days of the pandemic.

She said, “Partnership really has to be the first priority to promote safety and security, and it’s a model we live by.”