Intl’ TSA regulation changes: winners & losers

by Chris on December 26, 2009

After the underwear bomber, the TSA implemented regulations that seemed to make no sense. Here are the potential winners and losers with the changes.

The Twitterverse is abuzz with anger over the alleged Transportation Security Administration regulations that have been reportedly slammed into effect on international inbound flights since the foiled Christmas Day terrorist attack on an Amsterdam-Detroit flight.

While the TSA website doesn’t have anything official on their website yet, news outlets such as the Associated Press are reporting that on some airlines, passengers are being told to stay in their seats for the last hour of their flight, with no access to carry on baggage and nothing in their laps – including computers, blankets and pillows.

It’s no wonder that travelers are up in arms. None of these reported new procedures remotely address the original security breakdown. As the New York Times wrote, the man’s own father, an affluent banker, alerted authorities to his son’s increasing religious extremism. He was apparently able to get a visa in Nigeria and pass through security, not once but twice. 

The last-hour rule also flies in the face of common sense: What’s to prevent a similarly armed terrorist from blowing up the plane mid-flight? Or early on, when fuel on the plane is at its fullest?  

Even though these regulations seem to apply only to international in-bound flights, these regulations couldn’t come at a worse time for the travel industry. After a dismal 2009 spent reeling from the recession, travel agents and international destinations were starting to see an uptick in bookings for 2010 and 2011. Onerous security regulations (which, as 60 Minutes has pointed out, often seem more like “security theater” than actual prevention tactics) may dissuade those who were already on the fence about air travel – especially families with small children, who will find it almost impossible to abide by the stay-in-your-seat-with-no-distractions edict – or those with medical issues.

Business travelers, for whom time spent at the airport is money out of pocket, will also balk – especially if, as reported on international flights into the US, carry on luggage is restricted to one bag. What business traveler hasn’t coped with lost or delayed checked luggage?    

As with any change, however, there will be some winners if regulations such as these stick. Off the top of my head, here are a few:


1. Airlines with checked baggage fees (at least in the short term). In 2009, the revenue that airlines received from checked bags were the reason that some showed a profit – and kept others in the black. If passengers are limited to one carry on, these profits will certainly increase. UPDATED: Unless, as Henry points out in the comments, airlines are forced to abandon them all together.

2. Private jet companies. As Stacy Small (@EliteTravelGal), former editor of Elite Travel magazine, pointed out, private flying received a huge bump after 9/11 because of airport hassles. She believes that business travelers who had been told not to use private jets will be allowed to again, to avoid wasting time at the terminal.

3. Drive-to domestic destinations, especially those targeting families. International air travel with babies and small children is already a hassle for parents. These regulations could prove to be the tipping point between choosing a vacation that requires flight travel or picking a spot closer to home.  


1. Destinations traditionally popular with international visitors. The global economic downturn has already reduced international visitiation to Washington DC, New York, even Florida. More stringent regulations could exacerbate the trend.

2. Travel industry as a whole Hotels, resorts, travel agents, even (ahem) those of us writers who make our living off of the business. The fewer people who decide to incorporate internatonal  travel into their lives means fewer customers – and fewer readers.

3. Airlines, in the long term. Once you lose a segment of the market, they might not come back. Which is bad for…. 

4. Remaining international passengers. As we’ve seen during the economic downturn, fewer passengers will eventually lead to fewer flights. And fewer flights will lead to increased costs. So now we’ll be paying more money for a much less pleasant experience. And really, haven’t we all suffered enough?

Please add to my list – who do you think will benefit from the increased TSA regulations? Who will lose?

| Chris Gray Faust is a veteran journalist, travel expert, social media butterfly - and editrix of this site. Like what you read? Check out her writing, editing and social media services.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris December 26, 2009 at 7:45 pm


Terrorists – Their whole goal is to instil fear in people and make their lives harder, right?


Robin @ My Melange December 26, 2009 at 7:45 pm

As someone who makes a living from travel, this will certainly put a damper on my livelihood. I consult others on how to travel with only carry-on luggage and depending on what the new regs are, it will not only be more difficult, but might be downright impossible to coach others on carry-on travel. It is infuriating that most of these measures will not keep us any ‘safer’.


Henry Harteveldt December 26, 2009 at 8:35 pm

– Express shipping companies, as some travelers turn to these services to avoid further inconvenience associated with checking bags.
– Technology and security firms, which will see new rounds of business as airlines and governments seek to improve their systems to comply with new regulations.
– The consumer electronics “ecosystem,” including product manufacturers (like Apple) and retailers (like Best Buy and Amazon), as travelers stock up on mobile entertainment devices and power sources.
– Long-distance high-speed rail. If air travel becomes too onerous, travelers may shift some of their travel to long-distance rail service. The US lacks a national policy regarding high-speed rail. It will be interesting to watch how that evolves.
– Virtual presence vendors. Companies like Cisco offer sophisticated “virtual meeting” systems that offer near-lifelike meeting experiences. Business people will need to find a way to meet to build and sustain their business relationships, sell, collaborate, etc.

– The global economy. Travel and tourism create jobs, tax revenue, etc. If we see a noticeable decline in travelers, the current fragile economic recovery were seeing may falter.
– Aircraft manufacturers. Depending on what happens to air travel demand, airlines may defer or cancel some of their new aircraft orders. Larger widebodies may be most at risk, while narrowbodies in the 70-150 seat and smaller widebodies in the 200-300 seat range may do OK.
– OPEC and energy companies. The airline industry consumes a lot of fuel. Depending on what happens to sustained airline demand, it will be interesting to see what happens with oil prices. Yes, some people who fly now may shift those trips to the road, but we don’t know whether that will equal or exceed the amount of oil/fuel consumed by airlines. Plus, improving fuel economy and growing use of hybrids will contribute to eventual reduced oil demand.
– Airlines: In addition to the points made above, if passengers are limited to one carry-on bag, it’s unlikely that airlines will be allowed to force travelers to pay for their first checked bag. If that occurs, hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue that airlines are collecting now for those checked bags evaporate.
– All of us: Travel brings us together and helps to broaden our minds. If air travel becomes more difficult or too unpleasant, we won’t travel. That’s just not good for anyone.


Marcy December 26, 2009 at 8:57 pm

Winners: companies who can install teleconferencing services for corporations and businesses that rely heavily on travel.

Losers: lawyers and businesspeople who rely on that last hour of airplane travel to get work done because they’ve already lost so much time during the TSA, waiting, and boarding process post-Clear’s disappearance.


Claire Walter December 26, 2009 at 11:07 pm

Re “International air travel with babies and small children is already a hassle for parents.” We have neighbors with three small children and a widowed gandmother in Germany. When there were more non-stops between Denver and Frankfurt, they used to visit her twice a year. This year, they went, and next year, they are considering not going at all. Grandma is still able to travel, so the airline is getting one passenger rather than five.


Miss Expatria December 27, 2009 at 5:23 am

I could not believe when I read this new rule yesterday. It’s so reactionary as to be comical. I think the real losers will be the beleaguered in-flight staff, who will now have to pretend like they believe in this completely arbitrary rule and enforce it on what will surely be an increasingly irate crowd.

And what about landing delays? You KNOW someone is going to be timing the whole ordeal, and the moment it’s one hour plus one minute, they are going to raise holy hell. Again, the in-flight staff are the losers here.

I’m also afraid in-flight safety will be the loser. Someone will get up out of their seat anyway, some “Let’s Roll” cowboy will tackle him or her, chaos will ensue, and there are going to be a lot more arrests on the tarmac.

And for international flights, doesn’t this mean they will have to serve the last meal of the flight earlier, so everyone has time to freshen up before the clock strikes the magic hour? Does this mean we’ll get our stale roll and bitter orange juice immediately following the mystery meat and wilted salad, or will we have time to watch the crap movie in between?


Schvenzlerman December 27, 2009 at 10:44 am

They hate us for our Freedoms.


amy December 27, 2009 at 3:53 pm

my husband is on a flight today from dallas to North carolina (onto international flights) and was told he could NOT take his carry on on the plane with him. he had to check it, and NOT to the next airport, through to MUNICH!!?! and they put one of those “claim at gate” tickets on it, not one that gets to the final destination. what in the world? I can’t imagine my long haul flight with my children in a couple weeks with NO carry on??


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