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House passes bill to simplify some international travel

Transportation Security AdministrationBarbara LeeSeptember 11, 2001 AttacksJoe WalshU.S. House of Representatives

Passengers flying internationally from Ireland, Canada and the Caribbean through other airports around the United States may soon have an easier time with their luggage.

On Sept. 11, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 6028, the "No-Hassle Flying Act of 2012." This bill would allow passengers on certain incoming international flights, who are making a domestic connection, to skip baggage claim and go directly to their connecting flight.

Fourteen airports have been identified as "preclearance airports," with two in Ireland, four in the Caribbean and eight in Canada. If the bill were to become law, passengers from these airports would likely not have to recheck their bags before making a connection within the U.S.

"One would wonder why we are lessening any oversight over baggage," said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, ad Democrat from Texas, on the House floor. "But this is a process that I think is in compliance with all of our commitment to safety and security."

In the floor discussion of the bill, Rep. Joe Walsh, an Illinois Republican and the bill's sponsor, said the issue was brought to his attention by the TSA, which assisted him in developing the bill.

The bill passed the House on a voice vote, but it has not yet been introduced in the Senate.

At BWI/Marshall the next day, passengers were in favor of the potential change, as long as they are not giving up their safety.

"It makes traveling seamless," said Linda Wiegand, who was catching a flight to Hagerstown, but has flown internationally in the past. "When you are trying to make a connection and you have to go through customs first, that would really stall things."

Dave McAvoy, who lives in Washington, said he is "all for the convenience" of the new policy, "as long as it's been done in a way that can protect me."

Stacey Pitman, of Greencastle, Pa., said she remembers before Sept. 11, 2001, when this process was standard at many airports.

"It was easier," said Pitman. "The truth of the matter is since 9/11, I only fly with carry-ons."

Travel organizations are also in favor of the bill, noting the burden this double-checking puts on the TSA.

"The No-Hassle Flying Act is a perfect example of a common sense policy to eliminate a wasteful government measure and alleviate pressure on the Transportation Security Administration," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.

The airports with preclearance are: Calgary Preclearance, Edmonton International Airport, Halifax Robert L. Stanfield International Airport, Montreal Trudeau International Airport, Ottawa MacDonald-Cartier International Airport, Lester B. Pearson International Airport, Vancouver International Airport and Winnipeg International Airport, all in Canada; Bahamas-Freeport Preclearance, Bahamas-Nassau Preclearance, Bermuda and Aruba in the Caribbean; and in Ireland, the airports are Shannon Airport and Dublin Airport.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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