In response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Congress mandated that all bags carried onto aircraft — including baggage checked at the ticket counter — be inspected for contraband (e.g., bombs). This briefing summarizes the results of a RAND study that calculated the minimum cost to the nation’s economy of providing baggage scanning at all U.S. airports without affecting security. These costs include the cost of the extra time the passenger spends at the airport due to the length of the baggage screening queues, and the estimated cost to the passenger related to the deployed scanning equipment — assuming that this cost will be charged to the passengers through a security tax added to all tickets. The authors also perform a more complex calculation in which they substantially broaden the calculation to include the entire aviation industry to better captures the effects on the nation’s economy. As a variant, they discuss the pros and cons of positive passenger profiling, sometimes called a “registered traveler” program. Their results show that an optimal baggage screening capability would be achieved if baggage-scanning queues were kept to no more than five minutes.
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