Big changes needed at TSA, experts say
The Transportation Security Administration is on the ropes again — reeling from news that undercover federal agents had a 95% success rate at sneaking fake bombs past airport security checkpoints.
In response, the head of the Department of Homeland Security has “reassigned” TSA’s acting administrator. But security experts suggest bigger changes are needed, such as making huge investments in new screening technology and overhauling the entire agency.
“This organization is not performing to standards of acceptance, at all,” said Anthony Roman, a former commercial pilot and president of Roman & Associates Inc., a global investigation and risk management firm. “You have to start from scratch.”
Besides replacing the leadership at the agency, Roman suggested that the TSA employ face-recognition software to identify potential terrorists and conduct regular audits to look for weaknesses in the security process, among other changes.
Douglas Laird, a former Secret Service agent and one-time head of security at Northwest Airlines, said the agency needs to invest heavily in advanced technology to replace decades-old screening devices, such as X-ray scanners.
“If you don’t give them the technology to find what they are looking for, you can’t blame the screeners,” said Laird, who is now a security consultant.
Some critics have called for nixing the TSA altogether and returning se- curity responsibilities to the individual airlines. But the nation’s airlines don’t want the sole responsibility.
“We believe national security is inherently a government function,” said Jean Medina, a spokeswoman for Airlines for America, the trade group for the nation’s carriers.
“Flying is the safest form of transportation and that is because of the multi-layered approach to safety and security, and cooperation between airlines, airports, government, manufacturers and labor.” Ranks of low-cost carriers are expected to increase
Ultra-low-cost carriers with thincushion seats and a long menu of passenger fees reap hefty profits, and that is why f liers can expect a major expansion in such low-fare carriers in the next few years.
Denver-based Frontier Airlines, the latest carrier to convert to an ultra-low cost airline, announced last week that it had ordered 12 new Airbus aircraft, including 10 jets that can hold as many as 230 passengers each.
Frontier already has back orders for an additional 89 planes with Airbus, the European aircraft manufacturer. The current fleet has 55 planes.
“This announcement paves the way for us to grow, modernize and renew our fleet while helping us build a strong foundation for the future,” said Barry Biff le, president of Frontier Airlines.
Spirit Airlines, based in Miramar, Fla., has plans to expand its fleet from 80 planes this year to 144 by the end of 2021.
The expansion efforts are fueled by a drive for big profits. Ultra-lowcost airlines enjoy among the biggest profit margins in the industry.
Spirit posted net profit of $225 million in 2014, up 27% from the previous year. Frontier, a privately owned company, had net income of $129 million last year, compared with $11 million in the previous year, according to federal data.
But not everyone likes low-cost airlines.
Frontier and Spirit have the country’s highest passenger complaint rates, with 15.84 complaints per 100,000 passengers for Frontier and 10.27 complaints per 100,000 passengers for Spirit, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The average rate for all airlines is 2.04 complaints per 100,000 passengers. 7-Eleven plans to open convenience store in LAX
Los Angeles International Airport will become the first airport in the nation this month to add a 7-Eleven convenience store.
The store will open June 24 in the Tom Bradley International Terminal, offering many of the same snacks and drinks offered at neighborhood stores. That includes the giant 32ounce Big Gulp. (Don’t try to get that through the security checkpoint.)
One major difference is that most neighborhood 7-Eleven stores are open 24 hours a day. The one at LAX will be open only from 6 a.m. to midnight.
SOME CRITICS of the Transportation Security Administration have called for nixing the TSA and returning security responsibilities to the airlines. But the nation’s airlines don’t want the sole responsibility.