September 21, 2001
Today President Bush proposed new security measures for U.S. aviation, including dramatically increasing the number of federal marshals on commercial flights and stricter cockpit security. According to today's Boston Globe, he is also likely to seek tougher federal standards for training and background checks. But these proposals are not only too late, they do too little to redress long-known security problems at our country's airports. As long as airport security, and thus the safety of the traveling public, is in the hands of for-profit companies, we've not done everything we can to prevent the horror of September 11 from happening ever again.
Federalizing airport security is crucial because it not only takes the profit motive out of the security picture, it would also bring coherence and consistency to airport security operations around the country, allowing security workers to easily exchange data with the CIA, FBI, and other agencies. It would result in better paid and better trained security workers, whose average wage is $6.25 an hour and whose turnover rates are as high as 400 percent a year at some of the country's airports.
Noting that undercover police were able to get a knife and bullets through metal detectors at Boston's Logan International Airport last week even after supposedly tougher standards were put in place, Massachusetts Port Authority Director Virginia Buckingham said that the Port Authority is powerless to fix the system, and she called for the federal takeover of airport security.
Of the 102 nations with large international airports, only the United States and Canada have privately run security — an incredible statistic. Our industry, so dependent on the willingness of people to fly, needs to band together now to support legislation that will federalize airport security as soon as possible. Too many and too much has been lost to risk doing anything less.
We were in the middle of production of this issue on September 11, so we were only able to change some of the editorial in response to the tragedy. Look for updates on how the national attacks have affected our industry at our new micro-Web site, which you can click on at www.meetingsnet.com.