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Airport security called inconsistent, stressful by travelers in online survey

December 21, 2010 | 12:03 pm

Denver patdownlReuters A majority of American travelers call the nation's airport security system inconsistent and stressful and support procedures that speed through frequent travelers who offer the government personal background  information, according to the results of a survey released Tuesday.

The online survey conducted by the U.S. Travel Assn., the trade group for the country's travel industry, was designed to gauge public perception of the nation's air travel security system. The survey, taken between Nov. 29 and Dec. 10, questioned 1,000 Americans who traveled in the last two years and in the past 30 days.

Many of the survey's findings were not surprising, considering the uproar over new security measures adopted at the nation's airports in the last few months.

For example, 75% of travelers say there must be more passenger-friendly procedures to screen airline passengers.

More than half of the people who have traveled in the past 30 days called the current security procedure "inconsistent" and "stressful," according to the survey.

But the survey did reveal some unexpected results.

For example, the survey found that more travelers (37%) object to removing their shoes at the security checkpoints than people who object to undergoing a pat-down search by Transportation Security Administration officers (31%) or those who oppose going through a full-body image scanner (25%).

And despite the public outcry over enhanced security procedures, 71% of travelers said the cost of flying was the top reason they avoid traveling by air more often. Less than half (45%) said the hassles involved in flying was the top reason they avoid flying more.

In fact, only 23% of people who have traveled in the last two years and 22% of those who have traveled in the last 30 days specifically cited "invasive security scanning" for the reason they plan to fly less in the future, according to the survey.

When asked what ideas they would support to improve airport security, most travelers (65%) backed the concept of a special security process for Americans who travel frequently, have no criminal records and give the government personal background information in advance of a flight. A similar idea was proposed last week by the International Air Transport Assn., the trade group that represents the world's airline industry.

Roger Dow, chief executive of the association, noted that the trade group has assembled a panel of experts to make recommendations for improving the nation's airport security procedures. The panel's recommendations are expected to be released next month.

"From an industry standpoint, we want the best security possible," Dow said.

-- Hugo Martin

Photo: A TSA officer conducts a pat-down search at Denver International Airport. Credit: Reuters