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As abnormal security line delays continued in airports across the U.S., the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced today that four additional airlines will be added to its expedited TSA Precheck program.
Etihad Airways, Aeromexico, Cape Air, and Seaborne Airlines will grow the program to 16 participating carriers.
“Expanding TSA Precheck will enable more travelers to experience the program’s benefits while improving security and reducing checkpoint wait times,” said TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger in a release. “As more people enroll, we will be better positioned to increase overall security effectiveness and create more efficiency in the screening process.”
While the House has yet to approve sending requested funds to the TSA so it can pay its staffers overtime and fix the long lines, Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson called this week for airlines to wave bag fees in order to expedite the lines.
Airlines for America, the airline industry’s U.S. trade group, countered with the idea that Congress should re-divert money from TSA fees back to paying for security screening. It sent a letter to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) urging him to help reverse a 2013 bill that put TSA fees towards deficit reduction instead of security efforts.
“That decision has come home to roost,” said Airlines for America president Nick Calio. “If Congress wanted to take constructive and well-justified action, it would immediately pass legislation putting that money, paid by airline passengers, where it belongs.”
U.S. airlines, of course, don’t want to give up any revenue generated by baggage fees, which reached an all-time high this year.
Meanwhile, some U.S. senators mobilized this week to pressure their colleagues into securing additional funding for the TSA in 2017.
A group of more than 20 senators including Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee urging it to increase funding for the TSA in next year’s budget.
“As the Subcommittee develops the fiscal year 2017 (FY2017) Homeland Security Appropriations bill, we urge you to support robust funding for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA),” reads the letter. “Even while threats to transportation have grown, making TSA’s mission increasingly complex, TSA’s annual budget has gone from $7.688 billion in FY2011 to $7.44 billion in FY2016 – a decrease of $248 million or 3.23 percent over this 5 year period. Tragically, we were reminded all too recently by the attack on the Brussels Metro and airport earlier this year that protecting our airports and surface transportation through substantial security measures is vital to protecting our citizens, and in light of this urge that funding is restored-not reduced.”