- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 22, 2002

DALLAS The head of the Federal Aviation Administration said yesterday security concerns are likely to delay summer air travel as the government seeks to "balance" protection from terrorists and inconvenience to airline customers.
"A lot is going to depend on weather, and certainly some security issues will come into play," FAA Administrator Jane Garvey said.
Currently, security concerns have taken precedence over the customer-service strategies the major airlines use to stay competitive, she said. The resulting random searches of passengers who represent no security threat appear to be hurting air-travel figures.
"We do not yet have it right," said Mrs. Garvey, who spoke at the American Association of Airport Executives annual conference in Dallas. "It's going to take a while to get it right and make it seamless."
Hardest hit is the market for business travelers the group that brings in the greatest profit for major airlines.
Smaller, regional airlines, which have lower operating costs and can adapt more quickly to market changes, have picked up additional passengers as the major airlines cut routes to reduce expenses.
Mrs. Garvey said when passengers using smaller airlines are counted with the depressed figures for major airlines, the number of air travelers is about the same now as the start of last year's summer travel season.
"The numbers are strong, solid and virtually what they were last year," she said.
Any final resolution of security issues that are intimidating potential passengers will depend on upcoming decisions of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Mrs. Garvey said.
"In the final analysis, I think it's going to be a combination of technology, procedures and data," she said.
The data she mentioned refers to statistical profiles of potential terrorists, which she said government law enforcement agencies should share with airport security agents.
Robert Crandall, the former head of American Airlines, said federal law enforcement agencies need to do a better job of profiling possible terrorists to avoid the inconvenience and intrusion of searching innocent passengers.
"We can certainly do a much more efficient job than we are today," Mr. Crandall said. "Let's focus the resources on the people who might represent a threat."
John Magaw, head of the TSA, said delays at airport security checkpoints during summer travel season should ease as more airports switch to the new federalized work force of airport screeners. Congress has ordered the TSA to replace private security guards with federal employees to screen passengers at all 429 commercial airports by Nov. 19.
From June through September, "We're going to be doing about 30 to 35 airports per week," Mr. Magaw said.
The federal screeners are better trained for customer service and to reduce delays at airport checkpoints, he said.
At Baltimore-Washington International Airport, the first to have a completely federalized work force of screeners, Mr. Magaw said the average wait in line for passengers dropped from 38 minutes at its peak to 12 minutes after federal screeners took over April 30.
If delays increase during the summer, Mr. Magaw said the TSA would use part-time screeners during peak times.
Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta has said passengers should have to wait no more than 10 minutes in lines at security checkpoints.
At any time, however, the waits could be vastly increased by the TSA policy of evacuating entire terminals, airports and airplanes if there is a security breach. Between Oct. 30 and April 6, FAA figures show there were 180 terminal evacuations and 901 airplane evacuations.
The terminal evacuations caused 540 flight cancellations and 1,923 delays.
Meanwhile, the estimate on the number of federal screeners needed to meet the Nov. 19 deadline has escalated from 30,000 to 57,000.
Despite TSA assurances of attention to customer service, airline executives expressed frustration with the new security procedures.
The head of American Airlines said the searches of passengers as they enter terminals and again as they pass through gates onto airplanes "is both nuts and needlessly expensive."
Donald Carty, chairman and chief executive officer of AMR Corp., the parent company of American Airlines, also said he has occasionally been pulled aside by airport screeners for more thorough searches of his baggage and clothing.
"What frustrates me is the number of people in line behind me waiting for that job to be complete," Mr. Carty said.


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