Rolodexing Your Way to Lower Security Costs

Jan. 10, 2007

Since the title of my blog is The Security Check, it's only appropriate that I address a topic of marginal importance at the TSA's security checkpoints. A great story from USA Today (now posted on at this link) makes note of how the TSA is selling advertising space in the bottom of the security bins that we all deposit our laptops, shoes and belongings in as we make our way through metal detectors and X-ray machines at U.S. airports.

Now at first, I'm a bit miffed by this idea. If TSA has me captive for a security check, should I be treated like a captive audience and shown marketing messages? (Rolodex was the first advertiser -- who knew that company was even still in business since the age of the computer address book left them in the dust.) So then I got to thinking about security fees and put my research hat on. Here's what I've got:

-- $2.50 per enplanement that must be paid to the TSA -- this is added to ticket cost and is called the September 11 Security Fee.
-- Then they hit the air carriers with a Aviation Security Infrastructure Fee that is supposed to be the same cost as what the airlines had to pay in 2000 before TSA took over screening duties
-- then add in the cost of Air Marshalls (we're not supposed to know how many are on duty, but the word is that though the number jumped after 9-11, it's been sliding back)
-- Extra costs of new detection system equipment from companies like GE and L-3 and Smith's (and you won't even touch an upgrade to new equipment from these companies without dropping a quick $1M for your (small) airport, and it's a staggering number when you're looking at detection systems upgrades for full-size passenger airport like JFK or Denver).

I don't know, but I'm going to venture a rough guess that there are probably about $15 in additional security costs per enplanement (not all paid by the ticket purchaser directly) since 9-11. And that gets me thinking -- maybe they can keep those costs flat or slightly shrink them if this advertising program works.

So I say, "Keep on trying to sell me a Rolodex as long as TSA security costs are managed."

An addendum: Maybe you should consider selling Starbucks or Costco advertising space on your employee IDs if your corporate security budget was a little short for 2007.



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