Airports: The High Price
Of Our Insecurity
(September 11, 2002)
Since the devastating terrorist attacks of
September 11, many travelers have had one question on their minds-how can we
make our skies safer? The answer to that question can be found in the focus on
the nation's airports. In just one year, unprecedented times have led to
unprecedented changes in airport security.
Last November, the newly created federal
agency, Transportation Security Administration (TSA), began handling airport
security operations previously controlled by private companies. The TSA will not
only hire federal employees to guard parked airplanes on the ground, it will
also add more undercover air marshals aboard planes to protect the flying
public. The TSA expects to take over safety issues at all of the nation's 429
airports by this November. Why the change? Terrorists are still at large.
In response to that threat, security at
American airports is going high-tech. Besides new technology for screening
baggage and detecting explosive material, one big change is software that runs
on the airline's reservation system. Called Computer Assisted Passenger
Prescreening System (CAPPS), this program selects passengers whose carry-on and
checked bags will require additional security screening. CAPPS also selects
passengers at random, which helps to ensure passengers' civil liberties by
guaranteeing that no individual or group of individuals is automatically
targeted from the selection process.
So, what does this mean for air travelers?
Plenty. While long lines at airports are becoming more manageable; the costs for
new security are not. When it comes to defending American security, the price
tag is sky-high-some lawmakers and aviation experts say the costs could be up to
$10 billion per year. Currently, there is a debate as to whether the current
security fees should be doubled. The Air Travelers Association fears higher fees
will further hinder air travel, noting passengers are already loaded up with
fees. Indeed, taxes are at an all time high:
"On a $200 ticket, air travelers could be
looking at almost 25 percent in taxes. If you get a lower-priced ticket, it
could almost be 50 percent of the cost," says David Stempler of the Air
Travelers Association. "The talk of higher fees has financially
hemorrhaging airlines nervous," notes Air Transport Association (ATA)
spokesman Michael Wascom. He adds, "Many travelers are cost-conscious
consumers when it comes to air travel. This would really be a major financial
blow to them and the airlines they fly." Furthermore, it could also be a
blow to smaller communities. Stempler notes, "Historically, when airlines
suffer financially, they either cut back or eliminate flights entirely from
their unprofitable routes. Most often, small or medium-sized communities suffer
a higher percentage of reduced or lost service than large cities, causing
exaggerated problems for airline passengers in these communities because they
often don't have reasonable travel alternatives."
- Domestic ticket tax of $7.50.
- $3-per-person, per-flight segment fee.
- A maximum of $18 in airport facility charges
- Security fees at $2.50 per-flight segment.
September 11 is likely to be a day of great
reflection for many Americans. However, for the traveler, the legacy of this
cataclysmic event will be an ongoing reminder at the nation's airports.
Security Administration (TSA)
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