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Government rejects delay in bag check deadline

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The government has rejected the airline industry's proposal to extend a deadline to improve baggage screening, transportation officials said Wednesday, adding that the industry also sought to weaken the new guidelines.

The screening and tougher hiring standards for those who conduct it are part of increased security following the September 11 terrorist attacks. The provisions are part of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act enacted November 19.

Department of Transportation officials and representatives from the airline industry met Tuesday to discuss a 60-day deadline to implement screening for all checked bags. That deadline is January 18. The airline industry proposed changing the guidelines so that not every bag would have to be screened, and it also sought to amend a requirement to match bags with passengers.

In rejecting the industry proposal, DOT officials say airlines were told to "step up to the plate" and work to meet the deadline and its requirements, one official said.

The airline industry has also started a lobbying effort to get Congress to agree to a 30-day extension on the requirements.

No airline industry representatives reached by CNN would comment, but one member of Congress was critical.

"The airlines, through their trade association, are proposing an amendment to extend this deadline by 30 days, " said Rep. James Oberstar, the ranking Democrat on the House Transportation Committee.

He said the airlines are "trying to bury this amendment in one of the huge appropriation bills that will be passed during the frantic last days of the congressional session."

Oberstar called the tactics "appalling," and said their proposal indicated "they are reluctant to carry out a program of matching checked baggage to passengers boarding an aircraft."

He suggested airlines might be trying to delay implementation of the provision so that the government, not the airlines, would be responsible for a greater share of the security move.

Wednesday, DOT is expected to release the screening qualifications for all new screener applicants. The agency will also announce under what conditions current employees will be grandfathered into the process.


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