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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Would you pay $50 per ticket extra for Israeli style airline security?

Shmuel Rosner posts this article by Dana Milbank regarding what Israeli-style airline security would cost in the United States.
The Israeli model for airport screening has, without a doubt, been successful. But do these guys have any idea what they are proposing? Replicating the Israeli model in the United States would easily cost $40 billion a year - and possibly many times that. That would wind up being more expensive than supposed big-government boondoggles such as the Troubled Assets Relief Program and the auto bailout, and it would wipe out Republican promises to cut spending.

Campaign pledges to cut the budget were bound to collide eventually with governing realities - but so soon?

In a time-consuming and labor-intensive process, Israel uses profiling, background checks and extensive interviews to filter out the highest-risk fliers, who are then subjected to searches of luggage and person more invasive than anything the Transportation Security Administration has conjured. The air security argument has been about whether Americans would prefer Israeli-style profiling to the current system of body scans and pat-downs. But this overlooks a more fundamental problem: The Israeli system, even if it could be scaled up, is out of our price range.

El Al, Israel's national carrier, reported spending $107,828,000 on security in 2009 for the 1.9 million passengers it carried. That works out to about $56.75 per passenger. The United States, by contrast, spent $5.33 billion on aviation security in fiscal 2010, and the air travel system handled 769.6 million passengers in 2009 (a low year), according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. That amounts to $6.93 per passenger.
But who says the government has to pay for it in the US? (In Israel, there's not much choice - El Al is mostly owned by the government). What if you added $50 per passenger to the cost of a ticket?

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At 3:10 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

I would pay $50 to keep them from touching my junk.

As for El Al, its a private carrier. It once used to be owned by the Israeli government but that's not true anymore.

At 5:30 AM, Blogger RightKlik said...

I'm not convinced that there's a linear relationship between the cost of airport security in a small country and the cost in a much larger one (economies of scale).

I'm also not convinced that if we were to model a system on the Israeli scheme that we would need to go quite as far as the Israelis do... at least not in every city. Would screening need to be as intensive in NYC as it is in Tel Aviv? Maybe. How about Topeka? Probably not.

I don't doubt that Israeli style airline security would be more expensive than what we're doing now in the U.S., but I seriously doubt it would cost $50 per ticket to get the job done. I suspect it would be much closer to $10. Especially if the airlines had to design the system and pass the cost directly to their customers rather than to the taxpayers.

But I'm sure the airlines would rather punt the cost and the responsibility to the TSA.


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