NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

How Europe Handles Airport Security

October 10, 2001

U.S. experts have long studied and admired how airport officials in Europe manage security, but there hasn't been the will or resources over here to put European-style security measures into effect until now.

Here are some of those procedures we might adopt:

  • In most European countries, the government is ultimately in charge of security, but it hires private firms to perform the actual security functions at the passenger level.
  • That's because government agencies do not like to criticize themselves or one another -- and it is easier to get rid of a contractor than a poorly-performing civil servant.
  • Governments operate institutes for training the private security personnel -- with the basic airport guard getting about 120 hours of training and an extra 256 hours in Belgium to be certified for higher levels of work.
  • In England, workers at the three major London airports start at a salary of $27,500, but can earn over $30,000 with overtime and bonuses -- compared to $7 or $8 an hour in the U.S., with no health benefits.

Airport security guards are looked upon -- and regard themselves -- as professionals in Europe and the level of job satisfaction is high.

As a result, turnover in Belgium, for example, is 15 percent or less. Even the continent-wide average of below 50 percent is dramatically lower than in the U.S. -- where turnover can range from 150 percent per year to as high as 400 percent.

Source: Greg Schneider, "Looking Abroad for Answers on Airport Security," Washington Post, October 9, 2001.


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