The Air Transport Association (ATA) has expressed its commitment to continue to work cooperatively with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) as it works to implement a risk-based security regime and deliver a more efficient and cost-effective system. But the ATA questioned the financial burden the TSA system imposes on airiness and travelers.
“Effective, efficient security is vital to the U.S. airline industry in fulfilling our central role in propelling commerce and the economic vitality and global competitiveness of our country,” said ATA President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio in testimony before the Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security. “Our members appreciate the collaborative relationship that we have with TSA. Allowing TSA to focus its finite resources on the greatest threat is both good policy and good security.”
Calio identified three risk-based programs, supported by ATA, which will allow TSA to focus its resources on the greatest threats, simultaneously speeding up the security process for passengers, crews and cargo:
Known Traveler Program: Under this proposed program, passengers would volunteer pertinent information, enabling TSA to create an alternative type of vetting for them and leverage the additional passenger information. “This program should not simply allow certain passengers to go to the front of the line. Rather, TSA should use current information databases to create an expedited security regime for these travelers,” Calio said.
Known Crewmember Program: Working with TSA and the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), ATA will begin a 90-day pilot program next month at seven U.S. major airports. The program uses a pilot’s photo ID to verify identity and employment status by checking it against a secure database. “Moving crew out of the regular security line has the dual benefit of enabling TSA staff to focus on potential threats and speeding up the security process for passengers,” Calio said. He also stated that ATA wants this program extended to flight attendants.
Known Shipper Programs: ATA members have met the requirement that 100 percent of air cargo departing U.S. airports be screened. ATA is working with TSA and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) toward further risk-based screening of international inbound air cargo. “The goal is for TSA and CBP to receive and process information about shippers earlier than currently required, allowing resources to be focused on elevated-risk cargo,” Calio said.
ATA reported that its members and passengers paid $3.4 billion in taxes and fees to the Department of Homeland Security, $2 billion of which went to the TSA in 2010, a 50 percent increase from nearly a decade ago.
“This is an enormous contribution from one segment of the private sector, for what is clearly a national responsibility. No other industry or mode of transportation is singularly responsible for funding security costs as the airline industry and our passengers do today. This must change. The costs associated with that security should be borne by the federal government,” Calio said.
The industry’s federal tax burden on a typical $300 domestic round-trip ticket has nearly tripled since 1972 – from $22 to $63. Aviation security taxes and fees now constitute almost 25 percent of the industry’s federal tax burden. To put this into perspective, the U.S. airline industry’s total profit last year was $3.7 billion, just one of three profitable years over the last decade, in which U.S. airlines lost $55 billion and shed nearly 160,000 jobs.
“ATA will continue our great partnership with TSA to evolve our practices to ensure that we have the best possible security, so that U.S. airlines can continue to move goods and people to the benefit of our nation’s economy and global competitiveness. We look forward to working with the Subcommittee and TSA to realize these mutually reinforcing goals,” Calio said.