Americans on Air Travel Security: 'There Has to Be a Better Way'

As American travelers descend on U.S. airports for the busy holiday travel season, three in four of them are thinking "there has to be a better way" when it comes to air travel security screening, according to the U.S. Travel Association, which yesterday released the results of a new airport security survey.

According to the survey of 1,000 business and leisure travelers, eight in 10 American fliers support the creation of a "trusted traveler" program, which would provide alternative screening measures for travelers who voluntarily submit to extensive background checks. If the government could make it easier to fly without compromising security — with said program, for instance — travelers say they'd take an average of two to three more trips per year, creating $84.6 billion in additional travel spending for the U.S. economy, as well as 888,000 additional jobs, according to U.S. Travel Association estimates.

"Americans are clamoring for a better way, and it should be a wake-up call for our leaders in Washington," U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement. "An efficient air travel security screening system that streamlines the process for trusted travelers can strengthen our security and economy. Let's get to work building the system Americans crave."

Other key findings, according to the survey:

• Travelers are more annoyed at having to remove their shoes for security screening than they are with the TSA's new enhanced pat-down procedures.

• Nearly nine out of 10 travelers believe it's possible to achieve an air travel screening system that's both secure and efficient; the same number believe that if the government can put a man on the moon, it can create a passenger security system that doesn't frighten or inconvenience travelers.

• Three in four travelers support recruiting more professional security personnel who are trained to use personal observation, dogs and sophisticated computer analyses that have proven to be effective screening techniques in the past.

• A majority of travelers believe Congress should make air travel security a top priorty in the new term when it begins in January.

The U.S. Travel Association 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.