Big bucks spent for airport security

In the new reality of air travel post September 11th, a Toronto businessman on his way to Chicago recently underwent close scrutiny at Pearson International Airport.Security officials made him turn on his cell phone, his Palm Pilot and his lap top computer. They wanted to verify they were what they seemed. They took extra time scanning his body with a metal detecting wand. They checked his photo ID and asked him new required questions about his luggage.

Had he packed everything himself? Left it unattended at any time? Could he verify all the contents? 

Carries on knife
It was thorough. So imagine his horror when he opened his laptop bag aboard the plane and saw an x-acto-knife with a retractable blade in the pencil loops inside the lid. He had totally forgotten about it. And airport security had also missed it.

“It was completely unintentional. But it shows you how stuff gets missed, no matter how carefully they check. Please don’t use my name. I don’t want the RCMP checking me out,” says the 53-year-old. He has since removed the tool from his computer bag.

This businessman, like all air travel passengers these day wants the new safety protocol to work. Airline passengers are desperate for a sense of security. And they are prepared to put up with long line-ups and additional questioning to get it. But as this man’s experience indicates, the new system is still a work in progress.

System being upgraded
The federal government announced in mid October spending plans of more than $91 million dollars for upgraded security at Canadian airports. About $12 million of that is for hiring additional customs and security people and upgrading all training.

Next page: Other money spent

Other money to be spent includes:

  • $55.7 million for purchasing state-of-the art electronic security devices and advanced explosives detection systems (EDS). These technologies screen both carry-on and checked luggage.
  • More than $3 million to train cargo and baggage handlers, airline and airport staff to use these new technologies.
  • $6 million for items such as x-ray machines to do more screening of goods.
  • $9 million for additional customs officers, mainly at seaports and airports.
  • $6 million for information systems to link up databanks in customs with law enforcement data banks, both in Canada and abroad.

Security surcharge
In the U.S., George W. Bush announced the week of American Thanksgiving that baggage screeners will go onto the federal payroll. This makes airport security a direct federal responsibility. The thinking is that higher pay and public service standards will improve the system.

To finance these security improvements, passengers at American airports will be charged $2.50 U.S. each time they board a plane, up to $5 U.S. per trip.

The Canadian government has not announced an airport surcharge on passengers to cover planned security expenditures in this country.