Report: Allow one free checked bag, stop treating everyone like terrorists

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A panel of travel and security experts led by former Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge suggests ways to transform airport security and streamline passenger check-in procedures.

A new report commissioned by the U.S. Travel Association says that travelers typically avoid two or three trips per year because they don't want to deal with the hassles of flying. That totally gibes with what a lot of readers told us when we asked whether they were less likely to fly this year due to the fees, long lines, and invasive security procedures related to air travel.

Hoping to address at least some of the most common traveler gripes, the U.S. Travel Association commissioned a panel of experts, who collectively published a report that recommends Congress take action on several fronts. The two key suggestions are these:

Implement a risk-based trusted traveler program. Congress should authorize TSA to implement a new, voluntary, government-run trusted traveler program that utilizes a risk-based approach to checkpoint screening, with the goal of refocusing resources on the highest risk passengers;

And:

Encourage fewer carry-on bags. The Department of Transportation (DOT) should issue regulations requiring airlines to allow passengers one checked bag as part of their base airfare and standardize existing rules covering the quantity and size of items that can be carried onto an airplane;

The first recommendation would be entirely voluntary. Anyone who is interested in bypassing the normal TSA security lines would have to submit everything from credit info, to tax returns to fingerprints. Once it was verified that the individual posed no risk, he or she would receive an ID card that would allow speedier, less invasive security checks. (They and their carry-ons would still have to be inspected for explosives and weapons, but they wouldn't have to remove their shoes.)

The focus of the second recommendation isn't to save passengers money, so much as its goal is to speed up and standardize the procedures for airline check-in and boarding. We all know that the advent of widespread checked baggage fees has led to aggravation not only because of the charges, but because they add to the already long and annoying processes of checking in and trying to find spots to store carry-ons on the plane. Allowing every passenger to check one bag free of charge on any domestic flight would streamline the flying experience, according to the panel.

So what do you think. Would you be "on board," so to speak, with the recommended changes?

MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL:

More airports consider ditching the TSA

Why there's no space for your carry-on in the plane's overhead bin

It's a new day for fliers: We're human beings, not just cargo!

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