Passenger screening technology that travelers have the option to use and that flyers widely support is targeted by an amendment from Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) to the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill. The amendment would immediately prevent the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) from using most automated facial matching technology at airport checkpoints, which is in use at many of the largest and busiest airports in the U.S.

“Biometric technology is the future of air traveler screening and it is supported by the traveling public,” said Geoff Freeman, President and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “Misguided efforts to place blanket restrictions on facial technology only succeed in harming security, wasting travelers’ time and costing millions in taxpayer dollars invested in developing state-of-the-art screening technology. Congress will provoke the ire of millions of travelers if it chooses to hinder innovation, slow the travel process and reduce security.”

The Merkley/Kennedy amendment comes as the Commission on Seamless and Secure Travel, joined by leaders of the TSA, Delta Air Lines and U.S. Travel Association, toured innovations, such as TSA PreCheck Touchless ID with Delta, CAT-2 screening technology and Delta’s curb-to-gate digital identity experience, in a Wednesday visit to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport that represents the future of efficient and secure biometric screening.

“Atlanta’s airport is the busiest in the country and thousands of travelers each day choose to use automated identity verification technology for a safer and faster security experience,” Freeman said. “It’s an example of how—if given the choice—travelers will choose safety and efficiency almost every time.”

The Merkley/Kennedy amendment would ban or severely restrict TSA from using biometric technology, resulting in longer wait times in security screening checkpoint lines and reducing the layers of security afforded by advanced biometric facial matching programs—such as the CAT-2 machines and TSA PreCheck’s Touchless ID partnerships with Delta Air Lines and United Airlines. Further, millions of dollars would go to waste in U.S. taxpayer-funded programs used to develop and produce biometric screening technology in use at airports today.

Commission on Seamless and Secure Travel members noted the importance of biometrics to TSA’s mission.

Kevin McAleenan, former Acting Secretary of Homeland Security and Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection stated: “Biometrics are critical to TSA's mission, bolstering its commitment to security and the customer experience. By leveraging facial recognition and other biometric technologies, TSA has increased security at the checkpoint, enhanced the traveler experience, and improved efficiency thereby focusing more resources on new and emerging threats.”

“I spent a significant portion of my time in Congress on the House Homeland Security Committee focused on strengthening aviation security at airports nationwide,” said former House Homeland Security Committee Ranking Member John Katko. “A vital piece of that effort is the increased use of biometric technology at security checkpoints. Our nation has made vital investments to ensure the safe and efficient screening of passengers using advanced identity verification technology. To abandon biometric technology and the progress we have made would make airports less safe. I strongly oppose this proposal.”

“Senators Merkley and Kennedy should come to Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta and let TSA give them a tour. They should see—firsthand—how TSA’s new systems work, and how the traveling public is responding. Spoiler alert: It’s popular. No one is forced to use the new system, but people are volunteering in droves to use it, just like people clamored to sign up for TSA PreCheck,” said Seth Stodder, former Assistant Secretary for Borders, Immigration and Trade Policy, U.S. Department of Homeland Security. 

Wednesday’s visit to ATL was attended by TSA Deputy Administrator Holly Canevari; TSA Chief of Staff (Acting) Myung Kim; TSA Chief Innovation Officer Steven Parker; Melissa Conley, Executive Director, Capability Management and Innovation, TSA; Alexa Lopez, Assistant Administrator for Strategic Communications and Public Affairs, TSA; John Laughter, Executive Vice President and Chief of Operations for Delta Air Lines; Jason Hausner, Managing Director for Passenger Facilitation for Delta Air Lines; Greg Forbes, Managing Director – Airport Experience for Delta Air Lines; Ray Provencio, Acting Executive Director of Admissibility and Passenger Programs, CBP; multiple Commission on Seamless and Secure Travel members led by co-chair Kevin McAleenan; and U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman and Executive Vice President for Public Affairs and Policy Tori Emerson Barnes, among others.


U.S. Travel Association is the national, non-profit organization representing the $1.3 trillion travel industry, an essential contributor to our nation's economy and success. U.S. Travel produces programs and insights and advocates for policies to increase travel to and within the United States. Visit ustravel.org for more information.



Greg Staley

Head of Media Relations

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