Arnold Kling  

Unequal Security Screening Waits

Another Take on What's Wrong W... Anti-antitrust...

The Washington Post reports that some airlines, which do not control airport screening but do control the lines that you wait in, are giving first-class passengers shorter waits.

Across the country, "elite" lines are making a comeback at U.S. airports. The lines, which deliver high-paying travelers right to the checkpoint without waiting, were common before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but the federal government eliminated them when it took over security from the airlines. In allowing the lines to return, the Transportation Security Administration has irked travelers who say that the airlines' class system should not extend to airport security

For Discussion. Why do travelers resent the short lines for first class passengers? Is it related to what my co-blogger calls anti-market bias? The article makes it sound as if some people might resent the first-class lines less if they knew that it was the airlines rather than the government that was enforcing the class restrictions. But if the government were doing it, would that be wrong?

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COMMENTS (2 to date)
Bob Dobalina writes:

But if the government were doing it, would that be wrong?

It depends on how government allocates the costs. If each passenger pays the same security fee (and the fee covers the costs of the screeners), but some passengers receive better service, I'd find that objectionable.

Brian Horrigan writes:

It is worth remembering that the 9/11 hijackers travelled first class. I don't have a problem with first class getting faster lines, but will they get more relaxed security clearance?

First class passengers pay higher ticket prices, so the airlines want to benefit them. Sure. But does TSA get more money from those passengers or from their airlines in exchange for giving them expedited treatment? It makes a difference how their privileges are funded.

Finally, why focus on first class? Let's have TSA have a high-price, fast-moving line than anyone can join, whether they are first class passengers or not. A question of interest: should that line be a club with dues (long term contract), or should there be a spot market so anyone can pay for line access at will?

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