Having given some thought to the statistic I quoted yesterday, about the likelihood of you being on a plane during a terrorist incident, I think I have found a way to improve the system. Some feel that security measures at airports are unnecessarily time-consuming and largely ineffective; others feel that they aren't draconian enough. Nobody is satisfied with them the way they are, even the people responsible for them.
I think the checkpoint is in the wrong place.
In most airports everybody passes through a massive bottleneck to get to the inner terminal, then they go on to their individual gates. The main checkpoint is run by the TSA.
Where the checkpoint should be is as close to the departure lounge as possible. And instead of one, there should be a lot of them. If possible one for each carrier. Virgin should have their own checkpoint, United should have theirs, and so on. And yes, the airlines should fund the whole thing and the government should get out of that business. The airlines can cooperate with the FBI or DHS but it should be their show.
What's to like about this? It allows the consumer to pick an airline that has the security level they're comfortable with. Maybe you're willing to pay more for a company that screens for shampoo, maybe you're not; in either event it's your choice and you're not a victim of some arcane policy decision. People like me who think there is little chance of hijackings and explosions would pay less and get on a plane where they just check your IDs and wave you through.
I'm not even sure it would add to the price of the ticket, but there would surely be a reduction in the federal debt. Maybe the lines would be shorter as well. And a free-market security solution would be more nimble and timely than one that relied on regulation.
What's not to like? Inconsistency I suppose; and worry about whether a terrorist would choose a difficult target because it represents a greater payoff in fear or an easier target because it's you know, easier. If you worry that the majority of airlines would opt for lighter measures because it's cheaper, then that's a problem but it means you also have less faith in free-market economics than you probably claim.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009