Continental Chairman Gordon Bethune Urges Congress, Administration to Improve Airport Security

NEW YORK, June 19 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/—Amid concerns among U.S. air
travelers that aviation security is neither efficient nor customer-friendly,
Continental Airlines (NYSE: CAL) Chairman & Chief Executive Officer Gordon
Bethune today called on Congress and the Bush Administration to reconsider
arbitrary deadlines that threaten to worsen delays at airports and to gridlock
U.S. air travel without making the skies safer.
In a speech at the Wings Club in New York, Bethune urged Congress and the
administration to free the Transportation Security Administration, created
last fall in the wake of 9/11, to use its expertise to determine appropriate
methods and deadlines for customer and baggage screening.  Under the Aviation
and Transportation Security Act of 2001, Congress set several arbitrary
deadlines by which the TSA would accomplish certain key functions.

“Congress gave the TSA a limited budget, an exhaustive to-do list and
unrealistic deadlines,” Bethune said, underscoring comments made in recent
weeks by the heads of the nation`s airports and the U.S. Transportation
Department Inspector General Kenneth Mead and comments last fall by
Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta.  “Some of the Congressional laundry
list of mandates for the TSA actually hinders the quality of our security
system by forcing the TSA to waste its resources in efforts to comply.”

Bethune pointed particularly at a requirement that TSA develop a system
under which all checked luggage would be screened for explosives by Dec. 31
this year.

TSA officials have said the agency would satisfy this mandate in large
part through the deployment of more than a thousand, $1 million truck-sized
“CTX” explosive-detection machines at airports nationwide.  The TSA expects
the total cost of deployment will approach $2 billion.  Installation and
operation of the machines will cause massive disruption at airports

The machines, currently in limited use at major airports throughout the
U.S., were developed in the 1980s and deliver a “false positive” rate of
20-30 percent.
“Any machine that tells you that one in five bags contains a bomb is
useless,” Bethune said, urging lawmakers to allow the TSA to focus on newer,
more reliable technologies that have greater promise—even if those
technologies couldn`t be fully deployed by the Dec. 31 deadline.


In the meantime, Bethune said, “The TSA should use a combination of proven
prevention techniques that include better security intelligence, enhanced
computerized security profiling, and a combination of limited CTX usage, trace
detection usage and canine searches of a reasonable percentage of checked

In a six-point Call to Action, Bethune called for:—A smarter checked-baggage screening process that eliminates CTX usage as its cornerstone;—Streamlined security procedures for flight crews and airline employees, who have already undergone federally mandated background checks;—A known-traveler program, following on the success of a known-employee program.  Airline passengers have repeatedly stated their willingness to undergo a rigorous government background check and in return receive a more streamlined security procedure.  With a known-employee and known-traveler program in place, the TSA could focus resources on a smaller population with a higher risk profile;—Security screening at checkpoints that require customer waits of no more than 10 minutes;—Elimination of illogical redundancies in the security system, including the rescreening of travelers in gate areas after they are screened at security checkpoints.  “Assuming you have done the job right the first time, doing the job a second time does not make the plane more secure—it just makes fewer people want to travel,” Bethune said;—Redeployment of most air marshals to the nation`s airports as roving intelligence officers when air carriers complete their hardened cockpit door modifications by April 2003.

“No one wants better security more than my 48,000 Continental co-workers
and me,” Bethune said.  “We fly every day.  Our loved ones, our customers and
our crews fly every day.  Without a doubt, we want our aircraft and airports
to be secure.

“I believe the TSA could deliver far more efficient security with far
better customer service if Congress would allow them to use their expertise,
rather than requiring them to waste government resources on outdated

Continental Airlines is the fifth largest airline in the U.S., offering
more than 2,100 departures daily to 120 domestic and 91 international
destinations.  Operating hubs in New York, Houston, Cleveland and Guam,
Continental serves more international cities than any other U.S. carrier,
including extensive service throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia.  For
more information, visit