NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Europe's Airport Security Systems Should Be U.S. Models

October 29, 2001

European airports are particularly adept at screening passengers and luggage for security purposes. Indeed, they experienced only four hijackings in the 1990s. Perhaps that's because 85 percent to 90 percent of airport-security workers in Europe are privately employed. Their ranks are supplemented by government officials who usually oversee the private firms' activities.

  • In Amsterdam, some 2,000 private workers are supplemented by 200-250 law enforcement personnel.
  • Berlin's airport employs 450 private-sector personnel and 60 law enforcement officers.
  • In London, Heathrow has 3,000 private and 20 federal workers -- while Gatwick has 1,500 private and 11 federal security personnel.
  • At Paris, there are 500-600 private and 100 police officers stationed at DeGaulle -- and 350-400 private and 50 police maintain security at Orly.

Air terminal managers in Europe first opted for public servants to manage their security requirements. But that did not work out and now virtually all depend on private firms to supply private workers to manage those operations.

The U.S. Senate has passed legislation that would entrust security at our airports to civil servants. The House is debating the issue with a vote expected this week.

Source: Editorial, "Politicizing Airports," Wall Street Journal, October 29, 2001.

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