On Wednesday, documents exclusively obtained by CNN revealed that security checkpoints might be eliminated at over 150 small to middle-size airports across America.
According to the documents, passengers and their luggage would only be screened at larger airports for connecting flights.
An internal audit by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) found the move would save $115 million in taxpayer fund annually and be used to tighten security at the 290 remaining air terminals.
What does this mean for passenger safety at these smaller airports? What about the possibility of increased threats of terrorism?
Mary Schiavo, former inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transportation and an aviation expert, said people would be afraid to fly if TSA ended screenings at their local airports. After all, it was a small commuter plane from Portland, Maine, to Boston that two 9/11 attackers, Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz al-Omari, boarded.
Two TSA officials also stated that this proposal had been explored before, as early as 2011, and only 10,000 passengers, or about 0.5 percent, would be affected by the cuts.
“They say that only 0.5 percent would be affected, but on any given day that’s a lot of flights,” Schiavo said. “At each one of those [airports] you could have everything from a 19-seater to a 50-seater aircraft. Imagine if [terrorists] took out 10 regional flights in one day? You’ve had the largest loss of life, other than 9/11, in an aviation accident in decades.”
Others are also worried about the potential elimination of small airport security.
“Al Qaeda and ISIS still regard aviation as a priority target — that includes aircraft where you have fewer than 60 people on board,” CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank said. “They would see that as a way to inflict severe economic damage on the United States.”
On a daily basis, 43,000 TSA officers across 440 airports screen over 2 million passengers in the U.S.
[CNN] [Washington Post] [Photo courtesy TripSavvy]