Category Archives: Airport Security

One Year Later, Travelers Continue to Benefit from Mobile Passport App

MPC App
By Matt Cornelius, Managing Director, Air Policy, ACI-NA

As we celebrate the one year anniversary of Mobile Passport Control today, ACI-NA continues to welcome growing passenger satisfaction with our innovative app. Mobile Passport allows eligible travelers to submit their passport information and customs declaration form via an iOS or Android device prior to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspection. This first-of-its-kind app was developed by ACI-NA and Airside Mobile in partnership with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“Passenger facilitation is a top priority for North American airports and our airline partners,” said ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin M. Burke at a press event earlier this summer at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. “This new technology offers passengers one more tool for fast and efficient entry into the United States while maintaining the highest safety and security standards. As more and more travelers adopt Mobile Passport, we could not be more pleased with the early results and increased efficiency we are already seeing.”

First launched at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport one year ago today, Mobile Passport has now been successfully deployed at Miami International Airport, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and Chicago O’Hare International Airport, and San Francisco International Airport.

Since its official launch, the Mobile Passport app has been downloaded nearly 150,000 times. The app has been used more than 62,000 times by eligible travelers entering the United States, with half of all transactions taking place at Miami International Airport. Additionally, the app recently received its 500th five-star rating in the iTunes app store. Mobile Passport was also recognized as the Best Immigration and Arrivals Initiative in 2015 by the Future Travel Experience Awards.

In addition to transforming the Customs clearance process for eligible travelers arriving in the United States, Mobile Passport has proved to be an outstanding example of the kind innovation that occurs when industry and government work together to achieve cost-effective solutions.

“Airports see a clear role for innovative technology in creating a more efficient traveler experience, and Mobile Passport is just the beginning,” said Burke. “Moreover, Canadian, Asian, European airports have acknowledged U.S. leadership on Mobile Passport and have expressed interest in expanding Mobile Passport technology globally.”

Drilling Down – International Aviation Issues Come Home

ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin M. Burke (second from right) discusses international security challenges at the 23rd AVSEC World

ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin M. Burke (second from right) discusses international security challenges at the 23rd AVSEC World.  Other panelists from left: Jim Marriott, deputy director aviation security and facilitation, ICAO; Calin Rovinescu, CEO, Air Canada; Jeff Poole, director general, CANSO; and Tony Tyler, director general and CEO, IATA.


Kevin M. Burke
ACI-NA President and CEO

A few weeks ago, I participated on a panel discussion during the 23rd AVSEC World, where I had the privilege to discuss the challenges in meeting future security demands amidst an uncertain global political climate with the heads of IATA, CANSO, and Air Canada, as well as ICAO’s deputy director of aviation security and facilitation.  As the panel’s sole airports representative, it was a valuable opportunity for me to share our industry’s perspective and recommendations for ensuring safe and secure commercial air travel, especially in an era of constrained governmental resources.

In both the United States and Canada, federal budgetary limitations continue to squeeze staffing levels at security checkpoints and international arrivals areas.  Meanwhile, recent alerts and threats pertaining to commercial air travel have resulted in increased security screening procedures.  This combination of factors has created quite the conundrum for North America’s airports: they’ve been tasked to do much more with much less, and failure is not an option.  In a perfect world, American and Canadian airports would be fully funded to carry out the security and facilitation initiatives mandated by Washington and Ottawa.  In reality, the fiscal environments in which our airports operate demand creative and collaborative solutions favoring the risk-based over the redundant.

Take for example the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) PreCheck program.  From a practical perspective, PreCheck harnesses available data—provided by passengers on a voluntary basis—and intelligence information to serve as an indicator to guide the application of screening resources.  From the passenger’s perspective, it’s even more straightforward—no need to remove shoes, acceptable liquids, and other items that can slow down the line.  As I expressed to my fellow AVSEC World panelists, ACI-NA fully supports PreCheck, and we’ve been working with TSA to significantly increase enrollment.

Similarly regarding facilitation, ACI-NA has been a strong proponent of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Global Entry and the Canada Border Services Agency’s NEXUS programs, and we’ve encouraged the expansion of reciprocal agreements with other countries in order allow their citizens to participate in trusted-traveler programs.  We’ve also championed collaborative technologies to reduce administrative burdens, most notably the Automated Passport Control (APC) kiosks and the Mobile Passport Control (MPC) smartphone app.  Like PreCheck, these initiatives have resulted in measurable gains for participating airports, their federal partners, and the passengers they serve.

ACI-NA’s International Aviation Issues Seminar, December 4-5 in Washington, is an opportunity to continue the conversation started at AVSEC World, and I’m pleased to note that our keynote address will be delivered by CBP’s acting assistant commissioner, John Wagner, who has been instrumental to realizing APC and MPC.  I hope that you’re able to join us and representatives from across the aviation community as we continue to discuss challenges and explore solutions in an increasingly complex world.

Serious Airports Require Serious Solutions

by Kevin M. Burke
President and CEO
Airports Council International-North America

Kevin M. Burke

As the nature of business and tourism grows more global, the role of airports becomes even more important.  Airports are essential to connecting travelers with leisure destinations and businesses with new customers all around the world.  However, U.S. airports were recently scapegoated following the release of a customer service satisfaction survey of the world’s top 100 airports (“If the United States is a Serious Country, Why Can’t It Build a Serious Airport?”).

Like Forbes contributor Eamonn Fingleton, I would love to see more U.S. airports on the list of top 100 global airports, and so would airport directors all across the United States.  North American airports – some of the best and busiest in the world – are the foundation of the global air travel infrastructure system.  But Mr. Fingleton’s charge in his commentary that airport directors have no desire to undertake major improvements highlights two misguided notions.  First, there is widespread misunderstanding about how U.S. airports are funded.  Second, improving airports requires collaboration of the entire aviation community, including the airlines that use airport facilities.

First, unlike many other airports around the world, U.S. airports are publically-owned facilities operated by local governments that receive funding from a mix of sources, primarily user fees paid by travelers when they purchase their airline ticket. To further compound the issue, the U.S. Congress determines how much a local airport is allowed to collect and how the money can be spent.  The cap on the most common source of airport funding – known as the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) user fee – has not been increased since 2000.  Given the rate of inflation, the PFC’s purchasing power continues to erode every day.  Right now, the PFC is only able to buy half of what it could in 2000.  That’s why we think it’s time to increase the PFC and allow it to adjust with the rate of inflation.

Second, airports are actually communities comprised of many stakeholders, and any progress we seek must be a collaborative effort.  Most notably, the airlines have an important role to play in helping airport directors improve the competitiveness of U.S. airports in the global market.  The airlines are essential partners in the future of our aviation system, but the airlines must begin working proactively with Congress and aviation stakeholders to find commonsense solutions that modernize the way we finance and improve U.S. airports.

Airports are in the business of keeping the travelling public safe and secure, improving the travelling experience, and working with aviation stakeholders to find solutions to the challenges that keep U.S. airports off the global top 100 airports list.

Modernizing the way we finance airport improvement projects is the best way for airports to meet the needs of the 21st century traveling public. The investments we make today will drive growth into the future, because we know the economic impact of airports extends far beyond the runway.  With more than 700 million passengers and 27 million metric tons of cargo traveling in and out of the United States via air each year, airports make a tremendous contribution to U.S. GDP—more than $1.2 trillion—and employ more than 1.3 million people.

The need is clear: U.S. airports expect the number of domestic passengers alone to surpass one billion enplanements within the next 15 years, and their greatest challenge is obtaining the financial resources that will allow them to successfully tackle these infrastructure needs.  Right now, there are already more than $71 billion in infrastructure improvements needed by 2017 to meet projections in both passenger and cargo activity, according to the most recent survey by Airports Council International-North America.

We must also realize the inconveniences U.S. airport travelers experience are beyond the control of the airport.  Travelers wait too long to get through security and customs screening lines.  That’s why we continue to work with U.S. government agencies and urge them to increase efficiency with improved technology and more staff to alleviate the logjam travelers face.

We have a limited window in which to act, and I encourage air travelers to get involved.  In just under 500 days, the U.S. Congress will be required to renew – and improve – the policies that govern airport infrastructure within the United States.

It will take more than just the voices of airport officials to make the improvements travelers demand. If you agree with Mr. Fingleton that we should be serious about our airports, everyone must work together toward a serious solution.  We must modernize federal funding policies so our nation’s airports can compete on equitable financial footing with the rest of the world.  Failing to upgrade how we fund airports—our large, medium, and small hubs—will only shortchange our nation’s world-class aviation system and future economic competitiveness.

ACI-NA Launches Edge4Vets at Airports Program

by Kevin M. Burke
ACI-NA President and CEO

This Memorial Day, ACI-NA celebrates the service members who have dedicated their lives to honoring and protecting the United States of America. In my mind, there is no better way to say thank you than to provide veterans with the skills and access necessary to make the transition to the civilian work force.

That’s why I am thrilled to announce the launch of our Edge4Vets at Airports program which aims to translate returning veterans’ military aviation skills to the civilian airport industry. This program, run through Fordham University’s Human Resiliency Institute and funded by the Walmart Foundation through the Syracuse University Institute for Veterans and Military Families, will begin phase I in New York at JFK and LaGuardia airports. The hope is that this pilot effort will expand across our ACI-NA network to member airports in the United States.

On May 21 Edge4Vets and ACI-NA officially announced this partnership at JFKIAT, and also hosted an informal ‘teach-in’ with young veterans looking to get into the civilian aviation industry and older aviation veterans who have been working the civilian side for many years (pictured at left). The event boasted 50 participants, including 25 veterans from a half-dozen schools and 25 airport mentors from Delta, American Airlines, JetBlue and Hudson Group.

For me, the ‘teach-in’ solidified the genuine interest returning service members have about working in our industry and affirms my commitment, as a CEO of a leading association in one of the United States’ top industries, to make sure we reach out to veterans about the opportunities in U.S. aviation.

Edge4Vets at Airports will be working with ACI-NA’s Human Resources Committee to train returning service members in four separate workshops, all of which will take place at airports to maximize veterans’ exposure to the facilities and employees. While we are just in the initial stages, the goal is to expand to member airports around the country, using our HR network and capitalizing on the Edge4Vets program infrastructure.

We’re fortunate that airports represent a wide variety of skills and career opportunities that match well to the types of training and skills service members already possess, and ACI-NA is proud to take this next step with this Edge4Vets at Airports program. As the nation’s military commitments return to peacetime readiness and more veterans are looking to return to civilian life, we are preparing to welcome our returning heroes with exciting career opportunities.

Edge4Vets at Airports is led by its founder, Tom Murphy, director of the Human Resiliency Institute at Fordham University. The Walmart Foundation, through Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families, provided the grant to develop the plan for Edge4Vets at Airports. Edge4Vets will conduct a campaign to raise funds to implement the plan as a pilot in New York and then expand the program nationally to airports across the U.S. Edge4Vets will be working with Goodwill Industries “Operation: Good Jobs” program on this project.

Lawmakers Share Their Insights

By Tom Smith
During last week’s ACI-NA/AAAE Washington Legislative Conference, while federal officials reviewed their past accomplishments it is worth noting their forward-looking observations on the 2015 FAA reauthorization and the TSA.

Participating in the Thursday briefings of airport directors were FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Whitaker, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, (R-N.H.), Sen. Dan Coats, (R-Ind.), Rep. Michael McCaul, (R-Texas), Rep. Richard Hudson, (R-N.C.), and Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.).

On FAA reauthorization
The FAA is taking a “systematic approach” within the organization looking for changes that will enable it to operate more efficiently and effectively, Whitaker said. “We need to invest in airports to stay competitive internationally and meet demand,” he said. “We need to invest in new technology.”

With reauthorization 500 days away, Ayotte said now is the time for stakeholders, including airports, to provide their feedback as to what they want to see changed or included in the new law. Congress needs your help to make “common sense” decisions that will shape the nation’s aviation policy, she said.

“We want to hear from you. Reach out to my office on ways we can do things better,” said Ayotte, the ranking Republican on the Senate Aviation Subcommittee.

The biggest obstacles to the next FAA bill will the “remnants of the last time,” said Rahall, “primarily the funding levels.” Rahall, the ranking Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, noted he is working to preserve the Essential Air Service (EAS) program “so it does not become ESA,” an Endangered Species Act.

On TSA
“I have been critical of TSA Administrator John Pistole when he did not get enough stakeholder input, especially on the exit lane plan,” said Hudson, chairman of the House Homeland Security Transportation Subcommittee and the 2014 Commissioner’s Congressional Leadership Award honoree. “I have asked him to work with me and stakeholders” to develop a long-term plan for the exit lanes – one that would reduce the use of TSA officers and provide airports with the funds to use new technology. “I have his commitment to come to the table. It is a win-win-win.”

Hudson, McCaul and Ayotte noted a study is needed to improve the use of technology at exit lanes.

The TSA’s acquisition of technology has been plagued with problems that waste airport resources. Ayotte noted she is the Senate sponsor of a bill that has already won unanimous House approval to reform the TSA’s technology program so that there is greater transparency and accountability also with common sense reforms. This reform needs greater participation of the private sector, she said.

McCaul noted his “pet project” is to get the private sector more involve with the TSA, in particular the private screening program. “I think the private sector can do a better job. We should make it easier for you to apply for private screeners if that is what you want to do. They will save taxpayers’ dollars and they maybe more efficient,” said McCaul, chair of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Both Coats and Hudson observed that Homeland Security is now operating in a different budgetary environment than when it was created. A smaller foot print is needed.

The proposed DHS budget is 4 percent less than last year, said Coats, the ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriation Subcommittee on Homeland Security. There are proposed user fee hikes in the Obama budget that would fund program expansions. “There are considerable political issues that need to be overcome,” he said. “The proposal doesn’t have majority support in either House and we will need to look at what we can shift in the budget.”