Concerns rise over airline security costs

December 30, 2009 1:51:35 PM PST
Since 9/11, tens of billions of dollars have been spent to upgrade airport security, yet all of it still was not enough to prevent the bombing attempt on Christmas Day.

The government and the airlines have spent a lot of money on security since 9/11, but the question remains, are Americans getting their money's worth?

When it comes to air safety, flight attendants are said to be on the frontlines.

For the two days following the Christmas Day attempted bombing, flight attendants had to enforce the one-hour rule where no passenger could get out of their seat in the final hour of the flight. The TSA has since rescinded those restrictions. Still, flight attendants are feeling a bit anxious for other security changes that could be coming down the pike.

"Flight attendants are very focused on security. The unfortunate thing is the airlines have cut back staffing to bare minimums, so it's really hard for us to provide the service that the airlines have promised the passengers," said Chris Black from the Association of Flight Attendants.

It appears the government is falling short, too, on its promises. Despite the $42 billion that has been spent on air security since 9/11, many key recommendations of the 9/11 Commission still have not been implemented.

There is no widespread, reliable technology to check if passengers are hiding explosives; screeners only check 50 percent of the cargo in passenger planes and the government still can't immediately check the names of all passengers against a single terrorist watch list.

"Our government simply has not given the urgency to the task that it requires. I still sense a sort of business as usual attitude," said Lee Hamilton from the 9/11 Commission.

Many are now calling for better technology -- full body scanners, for instance, to be implemented at all airports, not just some as is currently the case. Still, industry analysts say implementing any new security rules will always have to be weighed against the bottom line.

"What the business traveler doesn't want to have to do is spend three hours at the airport to take a one-hour flight," said Henry Harteveldt, vice president of Forrester Research.

While government officials are looking for new ways to improve security, they do like to point out that despite what nearly happened on Christmas Day, the current system is vastly better than it was before 9/11.


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