Arnold Barnett, George Eastman professor of management science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, warned if the commercial airline industry continues to pursue its attempts to roll back security measures, the financial and human toll may be irreversible.
"No one in his right mind really wants to have security measures that are onerous, but Sept. 11 did happen and it could happen again," Barnett told United Press International. "If they're worried about their passenger numbers now, one imagines what would happen if a large number of their planes were destroyed."
Barnett is scheduled to present his analysis at the 50th annual meeting of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences. His comments take place on the occasion of the congressionally mandated deadline to deploy security screeners at all the nation's 429 commercial airports, which has been met. However, federal officials are expected to miss the Dec. 31 deadline to install explosive detection devices at all airport due to delays in deploying new equipment.
The airline industry mistakenly has convinced itself the risk of further terrorist attacks is remote, Barnett said, citing previous comments by Don Carty, chairman of AMR Corp., the parent company of American Airlines and American Eagle.
"I can't get into the mind of Don Carty," Barnett told UPI. "But we have to take his statements at face value. He says certain security measures would be wrong and would cause paralysis. He is also optimistic about profiling systems. The question is, is he right or is he wrong?"
A spokeswoman for American Airlines declined to comment specifically on Barnett's allegations, but pointed to Carty's previous testimony and public statements on airport security. The spokeswoman specifically mentioned a speech last May 20 before the American Association of Airport Executives in Dallas, and Sept. 24 testimony before the House subcommittee on aviation.
According to text of the speech, Carty criticized attempts to impose positive bag match rules on connecting flights and warns that passengers will stop flying if they are forced to endure unreasonable security measures.
"It will indeed be a hollow victory if we indeed build an aviation security regime that makes air travel so secure that nobody wants to fly at all," Carty warned.
During his Sept. 24 testimony, Carty said increased security would cost the airline industry about $3.5 billion this year, including $1.6 billion in security taxes and $900 million in increased insurance costs.
Delta Air Lines said it supports "initiatives that seek a proper balance between passenger convenience and security," but declined to discuss airport security issues in any detail, suggesting those questions be referred to the Transportation Security Administration.
Michael Boyd, president of the Boyd Group/Aviation Systems Research Corp. in Evergreen, Colo., said the airline industry is correct in arguing the nation's current airport security initiatives are overly intrusive and do little to deter professional terrorists.
"It's real trendy and intellectually cheap to take shots at the airlines because airlines are big corporations grubbing for money," Boyd told UPI. Many airline passengers are afraid of being "abused" by airport security screeners that are improperly trained and focus on too many low-level security threats, he said.
Furthermore, many of the same people who were running airport security prior to the Sept. 11 attacks still are in charge.
"It's the same people proven to be incompetent at security that are running the show," Boyd said.
(Reported by David Jones, UPI Technology News, in Newark, N.J.)