- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 13, 2002

NEW YORK (AP) Complaints are increasing from airline executives about the effectiveness of the government's work on airport security.
Some industry observers say it's time airlines spoke up about the issue, while others find it ironic that the industry would blame its financial woes on an agency it helped create in the aftermath of September 11.
Top executives from several of the nation's largest airlines yesterday said the Transportation Security Administration, which has overseen baggage and passenger screening since February, has created inefficiencies and is responsible for much of the new hassle associated with flying.
The executives' complaints came two weeks after officials from 39 airports wrote Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta asking him to pressure Congress to push back the Dec. 31 deadline for mandatory screening of all checked baggage. The officials said the hurried pace of change would disrupt operations and could delay travel.
Because of the "hassle factor" at airports, many travelers are driving or taking trains, especially on shorter trips, thus delaying the airline industry's post-September 11 recovery, executives at American, Continental, Delta and others said at an analysts' conference in New York.
A team of airline executives from Delta, Northwest and Southwest recently met in Washington with senior economic advisers in the Bush administration to voice their concerns, according to Delta's chairman and chief executive officer, Leo Mullin.
"Our audience clearly understood the case we made," said Mr. Mullin, adding yesterday that the government's post-September 11 policies have played a "significant role in [the industrys] financial duress."
Mr. Mullin said employee training, cargo restrictions and other changes mandated by the federal government since September 11 have cost Delta some $175 million, and he estimated that the Atlanta-based carrier has lost another $600 million worth of business as a result of the perception that air travel is too complicated.
After hearing about the criticism leveled at the security agency, spokeswoman Deirdre O'Sullivan said the "TSA is working very hard to address the concerns of both the airlines and the airport officials as we make this transition to federalizing the security of airports."
Richard Anderson, the chief executive of Eagan, Minn.-based Northwest Airlines, said the time it takes to get through security checkpoints is too unpredictable, varying widely from one airport to the next.
He said common procedures like checking the insides of passengers shoes takes up precious time that "is not going to make our skies any more secure or any more safe."
But David Stempler, a Washington-based travel agent and lobbyist, said the airlines have nobody to blame but themselves for the current situation. After all, the industry asked the federal government to take over responsibility for airport security in the wake of September 11.
"Be careful what you wish for," Mr. Stempler said. "Now that they've gotten out of it, they've lost control of that portion of their business. The TSA doesn't really care whether you miss your flight or have an unpleasant experience."
Kevin Mitchell of the Business Travel Coalition in Radnor, Pa., said, "The TSA has a single mandate, which is, 'Don't let it happen again,' and that drives everything they do. It's too narrow and is going to suffocate the industry."

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