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MONDAY BUSINESS : TRAVEL BRIEFCASE

Many fliers say they'd pay for pre-screening

Nearly half of Americans surveyed — and three-quarters of frequent business travelers — say they'd pay up to $150 a year and get a background check to speed through a separate airport security line.

July 04, 2011|Hugo Martin

U.S. air travelers already pay to check bags and buy onboard snacks, among other charges. But would they pay to avoid those long airport security lines?

A sizable chunk of them would, according to a recent survey by the U.S. Travel Assn., the nationwide trade group that has been pushing the idea of a fee-based plan to unclog the gridlock at the country's airports.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday, July 14, 2011 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 51 words Type of Material: Correction
Hotel test: In the July 4 Section A, a Travel Briefcase item in Monday Business about Crowne Plaza Hotel & Resorts' "snore absorption" rooms said the Crowne Plaza London-St. James was included in tests conducted by the hotel chain. In fact, the testing is at the Crowne Plaza London Hotel-The City.

The survey of 1,007 Americans found that 45% of those questioned would be either "very" or "somewhat" likely to pay an annual fee of up to $150 to undergo a government background check to speed through a new, faster airport security line.

The idea behind the proposal is that screening for everyone will move faster if frequent travelers who undergo a background check can zip through in separate queues, according to U.S. Travel Assn. spokeswoman Cathy Keefe.

The concept has been endorsed by a global airline trade group and has the support of Transportation Security Administration Administrator John Pistole, who said the agency hopes to test the concept on a trial basis this year.

While 53% of all travelers surveyed said they would be either "not at all likely" or "not too likely" to pay the pre-screening fee, the idea is popular among those who fly often.

Three-quarters of frequent business travelers and 61% of frequent leisure travelers said they would be either "very" or "somewhat" likely to pay such a fee.

Whether the program works remains to be seen. The TSA launched a similar pilot program in 2004, selecting three private vendors to take fingerprint and iris scans and run background checks on passengers who paid as much as $200 each in hopes of speeding through the airport. But the program failed after all three firms ran into difficulties.

Even if the idea gets off the ground this time, it may not be enough to improve the airline industry's reputation among Americans.

The airlines recently came in last in a satisfaction survey by the American Consumer Satisfaction Index, ranking below fast-food restaurants and the U.S. Postal Service.

One of the biggest gripes: fees for baggage and other services.

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Deductible for driving goes up

Fuel prices are dropping, but the average gallon of regular gasoline in Los Angeles is still about 65 cents higher than it was a year ago, when a gallon cost about $3.15.

In an effort to better reflect the true cost of driving, the Internal Revenue Service has increased the deductible mileage cost to 55.5 cents per mile from 51 cents. The federal government and many businesses use the rate to reimburse employees for mileage driven for work.

Gasoline prices have jumped about 20% over the last year, far outpacing the deductible increase.

But the IRS defends the new rate, saying it is based not only on gas prices but also on factors such as insurance costs and depreciation.

Said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman: "We are taking this step so the reimbursement rate will be fair to taxpayers."

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Prototype hotel room catches Zs

If you are losing sleep because your bedmate is a snorer, the Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts is working on the room for you.

The hotel chain has been testing the world's first "snore absorption" room at nine Crowne Plaza hotels in Europe and the Middle East, including the Crowne Plaza London-St. James.

The London room has been fitted with soundproof walls to absorb the snore vibrations and a specially designed sound-absorbing headboard to muffle the echo.

The bed comes with an "anti snoring wedge" pillow to keep snorers sleeping on their sides, thus reducing the likelihood of snoring. Next to the bed, the hotel has installed a white-noise machine to mask the snore.

"There's nothing worse than being kept up all night, and that's why we've designed this specific snore absorption room to help give our guests a great night's sleep," Crowne Plaza spokesman Tom Rowntree said.

The testing period at the London hotel ended Friday. There is no word on whether the hotel chain plans to bring the snore absorption room to the U.S.

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hugo.martin@latimes.com

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