Travelers To Skip Screening During Transit at Some U.S Airports
Under a new bill, some international travelers will be able to bypass security during layovers at U.S airports under a pilot program that’s advancing in congress.
The senate commerce, science, and transportation committee will consider the proposal on Wednesday as lawmakers look to boost tourism numbers following the COVD-19 pandemic and the 20-month border closure that ended in November.
Currently, the TSA must screen passengers and their luggage after they arrive on international flights in the United States before boarding a connecting flight. In many countries, there is no re-screening process if travelers don’t leave the airport and officially enter the country.
The pilot—which airlines and airports support—may free up screening time and make the process easier as international travel hopefully comes closer to 2019 numbers in 2022. The House passed a bill (H.R.4094) to create a similar pilot program in September.
The New Legislation
The pilot will be part of legislation (S. 3375) aimed at boosting international travel and tourism within the United States. The legislation would also establish an assistant secretary for travel and tourism at the Department of Commerce.
It would also build a task force to handle the pandemic’s enormous impact on travel and set visiting goals for international travelers to the U.S.
The pilot would also create a study on using dogs to detect COVID-19 at airports. According to a study in London, dogs can often detect COVID-19 in under a second, faster than both PCR and lateral flow tests.
The study, which included six dogs, found dogs could detect COVID-19 on clothing worn by infected people with an impressive 94.3% sensitivity. Therefore, the dogs would detect COVID-19 in 94 out of 100 passengers.
In contrast, the sensitivity of lateral flow tests is 77%, and the sensitivity of PCR tests is 97.2%. Dogs also beat PCR tests on speed by making a diagnosis in under one second. That includes people with a low viral load and asymptomatic people.
The screening pilot would allow the TSA to allow passengers from six international airports to skip domestic security re-screening. However, the legislation hasn’t named the international airports yet.
The Reaction From The Travel Industry
The travel industry has praised the new proposals. Various trade industry groups, including Airlines for America, Airport Council International-North America, and the American Association of Airport Executives, support the proposals.
Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), who leads the Commerce Subcommittee on Tourism, Trade, and Export Promotion, said “The travel and tourism industry, vital to every state’s economy and workforces, still needs significant help,”
“I’m happy to report though that help is on the way,” she added.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hugely affected the U.S travel industry. However, research suggests North America is slowly recovering from the impact of 2020.
Nevertheless, post-tax profits for North American airlines dropped 35.1% in 2020 and 5.5% in 2021. Hotel bookings and airline profitability have been slow to recover.
The emergence of the Omicron variant has increased worry in the travel industry after the U.S banned travel from various African nations.
Senior research analyst at Skift, Wouter Geerts said, “What we have found is that there is a very strong correlation between the number of new Covid cases and travel’s recovery,”
“When cases increase, borders tend to close, local lockdowns go into effect, and travel sees a significant and almost immediate drop,”
The travel industry hopes these changes will encourage better travel industry numbers in 2022.
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories