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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Monday, November 19, 2001

To sun, sand and surf, add security to our list

For a state as overwhelmingly dependent on air travel for its economic lifeblood as we are, Congress's approval of a sweeping aviation security bill comes as welcome news.

The new law (President Bush has said he will sign it) also opens new opportunities for local officials to get behind the national effort to get people flying again.

The key element of the new security law is the federalization of some 28,000 airport screeners. While some of those currently employed in airport security will transition smoothly to federal employment, others will not.

This will be difficult for individuals, surely, but the overall gain for the traveling public is more than a fair trade-off.

Under the new system, everyone who screens passengers and luggage will be a federal employee and presumably will be required to operate according to strict new federal standards. Law enforcement officials will be on duty at screening points and all checked luggage will — eventually — be inspected.

This last, the inspection of checked baggage, cannot come too soon. Since Sept. 11, there have been numerous stories about the shocking lack of security screening for baggage that goes into the hold.

As the national system steps up in quality and quantity, local officials should explore ways of adding our own local value to the new sense of security. Part of it is just plain promotion. Matson Navigation President C. Bradley Muholland made an important point on this the other day as he announced a promotion in which Matson will give free Hawai'i vacations to California residents.

Hawai'i, he noted, "is the only place where everybody who arrives goes through a security check when they come and when they leave."

This is an important point that should be reinforced to the travelling public. In addition, local officials should consider supplementing the federal security system with additional local support personnel.

For instance, they might consider hiring "aloha guides" who help people through the security system, attend to their needs or in other ways make the screening process as quick and painless as possible.

And there's no reason why such added service cannot be offered at both ends; that is, in Hawai'i and at gateway airports on the Mainland.

Having such Island-style service at both ends of the trip will reinforce the idea that a trip to Hawai'i is both safe and enjoyable.

Hawai'i must be careful not to be seen capitalizing on national nervousness or the heightened levels of security. But if we do it the right way, Hawai'i could swiftly become the preferred destination for anyone considering travel.