Transportation Department plans pilot program to match bags on connecting flights

Tuesday, February 5th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A pilot program to match checked luggage with passengers on connecting flights is being developed by the new Transportation Security Administration.

Transportation Security Undersecretary John Magaw said Tuesday that the TSA was working with the airlines to look at how to make sure that luggage from a connecting flight is not transferred to another plane unless the passenger also boards.

Under federal law all checked bags must be either screened for explosives or not loaded on a plane unless the passenger also boards. But if a passenger is scheduled to change planes, the airline does not have to make sure that the traveler boards the second flight before loading the bags.

``The gap in the process for passengers with connecting flights needs to be closed,'' said Kenneth Mead, the Transportation Department's inspector general.

Magaw told the Senate Commerce Committee that he was developing a test program to see whether passenger bag matching could be done on connecting flights.

``We're going to do a pilot,'' Magaw said.

When the Transportation Department first announced that airlines would meet the January 18 deadline for inspecting checked bags, some lawmakers and airline security experts criticized the government for not requiring bag matching on connecting flights.

The airline industry, which for years has fought such a requirement, had said it would be too disruptive.

Mead, however, said, ``We have not seen evidence to support their concern that positive bag match cannot be done (on connecting flights),''

Under the airline security law, all checked bags are to be screened by explosive detection machines by the end of the year. Deputy Transportation Secretary Michael Jackson said the department was ready to order 100 new machines and expected to certify a third manufacturer to produce the equipment.

``We have made a very significant step forward,'' Jackson said. ``We'll hit the end-of-the-year target.''