Do travel agents have a dog in the hunt for a viable registered traveler program? If Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition (BTC) is correct a registered traveler program (RT) is essential to the future of the industry, including airlines and hoteliers and yes – travel agents.
Mitchell urges “more efficient use of limited space and scarce security dollars is necessary if we are going to facilitate the business of business travel and power a strong and broad economic recovery in the immediate years ahead.”
“We ought to take this strategic opportunity to re-launch Registered Traveler (RT) as the serious risk-based security program that Congress intended it to be. RT holds the latent promise of higher productivity for business travelers and more efficient use of scarce federal resources for aviation system security,” he argues.
Airport security delays are as discouraging to business travelers, as are tarmac delays, Mitchell believes, and a barrier to frequent travelers who are drivers of business and full economic recovery and job creation.
“ It is in every American’s interest that business travelers transit the nation’s aviation system with the maximum level of efficiency possible. This includes not having to routinely sit unproductively on tarmacs for hours at overscheduled and congested airports, or as is the subject of this analysis, not being encumbered by unpredictable and inefficient airport security-clearance processes.
“RT holds the latent promise of higher productivity for business travelers and more efficient use of scarce federal resources for aviation system security, “ Mitchell says, citing an August 2009 report by the Reason Foundation, “The cost-effectiveness of such an approach -- focusing limited aviation security resources away from lower-risk travelers and toward higher-risk travelers -- was documented early on in studies by RAND Corporation and Carnegie-Mellon University.
“Significant business traveler demand remains for RT and support among travel and airport industry organizations is strong. We will no doubt return to 4 percent to 5 percent annual passenger growth as the taxi toward 1 billion passengers gets underway once again. We are not building new airports, so more efficient use of limited space and scarce security dollars is necessary if we are going to facilitate the business of business travel and power a strong and broad economic recovery in the immediate years ahead,” Mitchell said.
“Now is an opportune time to act on the important lessons learned from the promising but structurally flawed initial public-private partnership that was RT and emplace a sustainable program that benefits all Americans,” Mitchell said.
Key BTC recommendations include Transportation Security Administration (TSA) management of robust background checks, better use of technology, an efficient enrollment program and other recommendations that could lead to a viable program.
“A central reason RT only grew to a couple of hundred thousand members, instead of a couple of million with sustainable economics, was an incredibly inefficient and high-cost enrollment process that stalled the program and forced it into a tailspin before a national critical mass could be achieved,” Mitchell said.
“Essentially, prospective members had to plan in advance to enroll at participating airports, or RT vendors had to ship and provide staff for enrollment kiosks on large corporate campuses. In contrast, what is needed is a strategic partnership with a firm owning a nationwide network of 1,000 or more “storefronts” where enrollment kiosks and staff could be efficiently deployed and where prospective RT members could conveniently schedule enrollment appointments.”
Mitchell was an advisor to RT services-provider Verified Identity Pass, Inc. (Clear) and currently advises FLO Corporation. Mitchell is also founder and chairman of the Business Travel Coalition.