U.S. Travel Association Pushes for 'Trusted Traveler' Program

In light of the new enhanced security procedures at U.S. airports, the U.S. Travel Association (USTA) has called on the federal government to accelerate the creation of a "trusted traveler" program for U.S. travelers, it announced yesterday.

"There is a shared sense of a better, smarter way to make the air travel security system more secure and efficient for travelers," said USTA President and CEO Roger Dow. "We believe a trusted traveler program should be the centerpiece of an enhanced air travel security process."

According to USTA, such a program would allow travelers who voluntarily share biometric and biographical information, pass robust background checks to confirm their "low-risk" nature, and are otherwise verified by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to pass through an alternative security process, thereby enabling security screeners to shift their resources from a large pool of low-risk travelers toward a smaller, more focused pool of travelers who have not been pre-screened.

"The vast majority of the traveling public poses little threat to our nation's security, yet the current approach subjects every passenger to the same security procedures," Dow continued. "A trusted traveler program would allow us to focus more security where it is most needed, while reducing unnecessary hassles for the majority of low-risk travelers. Surely the United States can find a way to implement such a commonsense approach."

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) already is applying some "trusted traveler" principles in a program known as Secure Flight, which checks 100 percent of domestic and inbound passengers against government watch lists.

"Secure Flight has been a successful partnership between airlines, online reservation systems and the government to ensure that known risks are not allowed access to aircraft flying within the U.S.," Dow said. "It provides a glimpse of what more efficient security might look like."

USTA already has convened a Blue Ribbon Panel for Frictionless Aviation Security; comprised of industry and security experts, as well as former government officials, it will make its recommendations for how to improve air travel security — with specific details about the proposed trusted traveler program — in early 2011.