Europe's Airports Feeling Pinch From Security Costs

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When governments in Europe mandate greater security checks on air passengers, it is often the airports that pick up that tab. But the airports complain that because security is a government responsibility, it should be the state that pays for it.


The United States wants European airports to increase the number of full-body scanners used to screen passengers. This turns out to be an expensive request. As Teri Schultz reports from Brussels, airport officials say safety measures will cost them money.

TERI SCHULTZ: It's not that European airports aren't concerned about security, says one of their representatives in Brussels. But they're also frustrated by the difficulties new measures entail.

Mr. ROBERT O'MEARA (Communications manager, Airports Council International Europe): It's an operational nightmare.

SCHULTZ: Robert O'Meara of Airports Council International Europe, representing more than 400 European airports, explains that security costs have gone from about eight percent of operating budgets before 9/11 to 35 percent now.

Mr. O'MEARA: Every time that there is a threat revealed, suddenly its a new excuse to add another layer of regulations that somebody else has to pay for.

SCHULTZ: And in Europe, that somebody is almost never the government that mandates the measures. ACI is now asking that governments pay for any new security procedures they deem necessary for equipment and for training. For some airports, that can't come soon enough.

Schiphol in Amsterdam, where the would-be Christmas bomber transited to the U.S., has already been ordered to buy 60 new body scanners at about $200,000 each. There's no promise of federal reimbursement. But Mirjam Snoerwang, a Schiphol spokesperson, doesnt seem too worried yet.

Ms. MIRJAM SNOERWANG (Spokesperson, Schiphol): Safety first. We ordered them, and after we're going to have discussion with the government who's going to pay the scans.

SCHULTZ: The Dutch government has ordered the new scanners to be operational within just a couple of weeks.

For NPR News, I'm Teri Schultz in Brussels.

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