OK, I know this issue is getting old for many people. I know it's controversial and may people don't agree with my viewpoint and I respect that. But I thought I would share a letter with you that I wrote to the TSA
on this issue and would appreciate your feedback, good and bad.
I am writing to request that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA
) to consider a plan to allow visitors back into the concourses at U.S. airports.
Before September 11, 2001, we were allowed to pass security without an airline ticket to visit the airline lounges, watch airplanes, shop in the airport establishments, dine in the airport restaurants, meet visitors at the gate, and spend those last few minutes with our families at the gate before they had to board their flights. These are among the many benefits of allowing visitors back on the concourses. At many airports, all the worthwhile shops and restaurants are beyond security--and these establishments have suffered great economic loss due to this post-9/11 policy. A society as free as America shouldn't have to keep a permanent European-style policy of restricting the airside to ticket holders. The airports are financed by the taxpayers; therefore, it is fair that the taxpayers should be able to visit the airports whenever they want (not just when they need to travel).
Obviously the primary concern of the TSA
is aviation security, which is completely understandable. I believe we can reopen the concourses to visitors given the established security objectives of the agency. Under the plan that I propose, each person who wants to pass security and go to the gates will be required to purchase a "gate pass" for a nominal fee of, say, $5.00. These gate passes could be sold via the TSA
website or through an airline kiosk, and they would be required to collect the same information from the customer that is collected in a Passenger Name Record (PNR) for travelers. Essentially, they're purchasing a boarding pass without a destination. This accomplishes a few things:
First, security is maintained because the visitor will still be positively identified and the same CAPPS background checks will be done on him as is done for regular ticket holders. In addition, this positive identification process will prevent a ticket holder from using the visitor pass to bypass the "selectee" process currently in use at TSA
checkpoints, because it will compare the name to the CAPPS-generated list of selectees to ensure the "visitor" doesn't also possess a current-day ticket with the intention of avoiding the secondary screening. Also, the visitor would not be allowed to carry any luggage through security (except maybe a purse for women); therefore, the screening process would be expedited.
Second, the gate pass fee would be collected to finance any costs associated with the additional screening that would be necessary, and may even generate enough revenue to reduce or eliminate the "AY" security fee charged to ticket-holders, or to finance other security initiatives.
I realize that one concern of implementing this plan is that an increased influx of people through the checkpoints will cause more delays for travelers. However, with few exceptions, in my recent travel experiences, I have found that the wait in lines at TSA
checkpoints are seldom more than five minutes. At peak times at certain airports, it may be appropriate to suspend allowing visitors into the lines until the "rush" is over.
I don't believe that this plan would substantially increase the time needed for a traveler to get through security since they aren't allowed bring luggage, etc., through security, most will simply walk through the metal detector and be on their way. Also, the gate pass fee would discourage people from clogging up the lines unless they feel like they really "need" to go to the airside (to shop, eat, etc.)
I encourage TSA
to adopt a plan such as this to allow visitors back into the concourses, through a 60-day trial period to ensure that this is a workable solution.
I thank you for considering my ideas.
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