OpinionMeister

Friday, April 29, 2005

Private Sector Does a Better Job at Airports

The Associated Press reports that five airports that were allowed to keep private screeners show a statistically significant better job at screening passengers. Link.
A congressional investigation found airport screeners employed by private companies do a better job detecting dangerous objects than government screeners, according to a House member who has seen the classified report.

The Government Accountability Office found statistically significant evidence that passenger screeners, who work under a pilot program at five airports, including San Francisco International Airport, perform better than their federal counterparts at some 450 airports, Rep. John Mica, R-Fla. and chairman of the House aviation subcommittee, said Tuesday.

"You get a statistically significant improvement if you go to federal supervision with private screening companies," Mica said.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, Congress ordered every commercial airport but five to switch from privately employed screeners to a government work force.

This is no surprise. Why should civil servants, who cannot be fired no matter how bad a job they do, do a better job than those employed by private firms. The private screeners used on September 11 did not fail in their jobs. No object that were then banned on airplanes got past them. That is why the hijackers used box cutters, which were than allowed on planes.

The major failure was with the applicable laws and rules. Previous hijackings had always been to demand something. The laws reflected this by making it illegal for flight personnel to resist hijackers. It was thought that this would endanger the passengers more than allowing the hijacking to go forward. The law was based on getting the plane on the ground, where the professionals could take over and negociate with the hijackers.

The only changes that were necessary were those that reinforced the cockpit doors, redefined what could be used as a weapon, and allowed attempts to overcome the hijackers. The nationalizing of the screening personnel was not only totally unnecessary, it was counterproductive. If Israel, which has more experience in dealing with terrorists than any other nation on Earth, uses private firms to perform most security duties at its airport, why would we want to change from that to something different.

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