Airports are crowded, flights are often delayed, and many travelers will get stuck in long security lines. It may get worse: a new study by the U.S. Travel Association (USTA) says that American aviation may be flying into a storm of “chronic congestion, delays, and frustration.”
The problem is that our airports, security screening, and air traffic control are run by the government — an institution not known for good customer service or making efficient investments to meet market demands. The solution is to privatize all these activities, which is the successful reform approach taken by Canada and many European countries.
U.S. airport screening is run by the unionized Transportation Security Administration, which has a reputation for intrusive pat downs and inept management. Former TSA chief Kip Hawley called the agency “hopelessly bureaucratic.” And studies have found that TSA security performance is no better, and possibly worse, than private-sector screening, which is allowed at only a handful of U.S. airports.
The TSA has a penchant for wasting money on useless activities, leaving it less to spend on things that benefit travelers, such as more screening stations. For example, a new Government Accountability Office report finds that TSA spends $200 million a year on a program to spot terrorists by their suspicious behavior — yet the program simply does not work.
Congress should move responsibility for screening to the airports, and allow them to contract out to expert security firms. Private firms would be able to flexibly adjust their workforces to reduce congestion, and they would end low-value procedures that wasted passenger time.