Planners and attendees alike are concerned about airport security these days. Here’s what the airlines and federal government are doing to ease those concerns.
In the year 2000, there were six security initiatives issued for air travel. From September 11, 2001, to January 2002, airlines were given 70 new security initiatives. Among the most ubiquitous of the new initiatives are more-thorough security checks, repeated identification checks, limited carry-on luggage requirements, and tighter controls on potentially dangerous items that will be allowed on board. In addition, all airport security screeners must have a high school diploma and one year of work experience. All airline personnel must undergo a criminal history background check by December 2002, even food service handlers.
New security technology also has been mandated, but it won’t happen instantaneously. While the Aviation Security Bill, passed by Congress in November 2001, required that 2,000 X-ray machines be put in place around the country by January 18th of this year, full compliance wasn’t possible due to a lack of availability of the machines and a need to redesign airports to accommodate them. High-tech explosive detection systems that can accurately scan up to 1,500 bags per hour also are being explored in a $30 million project in Denver, while many airports are using the low-tech version: explosives-sniffing dogs.
Other items on the agenda for the near future: United Airlines has announced that it will put taser guns in cockpits once the Federal Aviation Administration has approved their use, and has reinforced cockpit doors. Pilots will be trained in taser use, and the guns will be locked in electronically coded lockboxes in the cockpits. Flight attendants also will be trained in special security measures.
Increased security has caused long lines, and knowing how annoying the wait can be, airlines are trying to find ways to reduce the wait by provided a kiosk check-in service, and designating separate security check-in lines for passengers in preferred programs. Other tips for reducing heel-cooling time: Use curbside check-in and skycaps; use e-tickets; and contact the airlines to obtain access to a paging system that will provide updated flight and airport information.
All the new security measures don’t come cheap: Security costs have skyrocketed from $75 million in 2001 to an estimated $400 million this year. And guess who pays? That’s right, the traveling public, in the form of a $2,50 security fee on each ticket issued after Feb. 1, 2002. The fee maxes out at $5 for a one-way ticket, $10 for a round-trip.