WASHINGTON - U.S. aviation leaders today unveiled an aggressive national program for secure and convenient summer air travel as passenger traffic returns to pre-9/11 levels.
Officials from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), airports and major airlines together devised a strategy designed to help accommodate an anticipated 200 million air travelers nationwide between the Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends.
The Aviation Partnership Support Plan identifies numerous steps each partner can take to smooth the flying experience. Tactics include passenger education to improved techniques at the passenger checkpoint and the deployment of airport and airline personnel to assist travelers.
"I applaud the aviation industry for pulling together to address the expected challenges of this summer's travel season," said Tom Ridge, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, of which TSA is a part. "Today as we celebrate significantly improved airport security and a return to previous air traffic levels, we also pledge our continued commitment to a pleasant customer experience."
Officials from this partnership identified passengers' lack of preparedness for the security process as one of the major reasons for back-ups at the checkpoint. TSA screeners continue to intercept over a half a million prohibited items each month, including more than 40 firearms. The result is a more lengthy process at the security checkpoint for every passenger.
"The goal of the Prepare for Summer Takeoff campaign is to eliminate the extra minutes involved in the detection and removal of prohibited items and the need for secondary screening of passengers," said Rear Adm. David M. Stone, USN (Ret.), TSA's Acting Administrator. "We ask all flyers, regardless of their experience, to approach packing with particular care and to prepare for the screening process before going to the airport. Our screeners are up to the challenges before them,and I trust travelers will also do their part. "As true partners we can get the job done more efficiently and effectively."
A list of focus airports where significant passenger increases are predicted has already been identified. These 25 airports will receive new tools and conduct public outreach as the summer season kicks off. Successful initiatives and best practices will be recommended for other airports.
Additionally, airlines, airports and TSA will recommend operational enhancements for individual airports. Local teams at each airport will then consider these recommendations and adopt the steps most appropriate for their facility.
Among the recommendations are improved signage and recorded messages to help passengers navigate the airports, TV monitors and staff to prepare passengers for screening and technological enhancements to expedite X-ray processes. Security will remain at the highest level with implementation of these steps.
Finally, to better position TSA's Congressionally mandated maximum of 45,000 screeners, the agency is redeploying additional screeners to the nation's busiest airports.
Prepare for Summer Takeoff reminds passengers to:
Handle prohibited items properly. Everyone should know that firearms and large knives are prohibited at the passenger checkpoint. But pocketknives, pointed scissors, self-defense sprays and other potential weapons also are not allowed in the aircraft cabin. Please place these items in checked bags or leave them at home. Go to the TSA website for a complete list of prohibited items.
Be prepared for screening. To maximize efficiency at the security checkpoint be sure that all metal is removed and stowed in your carry-on luggage. A useful tip is to bring along a plastic bag to store keys, loose change, etc., for easy placement in your carry-on.
When approaching the checkpoint at most airports, an airline employee or contractor will ask passengers for a boarding pass and a government-issued identification. Please have them out and available throughout screening.
Be flexible. Not all trips through the checkpoint will be the exactly same. Remember, screener activities are designed to protect you, your family and loved ones, it is not meant to be inconvenient.
Prepare before leaving for the airport. Travel tips for parents, persons with special needs and the general public, lists of prohibited items and much more can be found on the TSA website. TSA encourages travelers to use the Prepare for Summer Travel Checklist provided on the website. Passengers will be surprised at how much easier an airport experience will be if they know what to expect.