Airport security: that'll be $150 for your background check

By danwarne, July 11 2011
Airport security: that'll be $150 for your background check

Don't enjoy being frisked and groped, having to disgorge your bag hurriedly and be treated like a potential terrorist? 

What if you could avoid it all by paying law enforcement authorities to compile a thorough background check on you for airport staff? 

Given people shell out up to $840 for 12 months' membership to the Qantas Club, the US Travel Association is pondering whether travellers might cough up $150 to be given some level of pre-clearance at security checkpoints for a year. 

The association surveyed its members, and the surprising result was 45% of the 1,007 travellers said they would be "very" or "somewhat" likely to pay to avoid the full scrutiny treatment every time.

That number rose higher among the ranks of people who classed themselves as frequent travellers: 61% said they'd be somewhat or very likely to shell out the $150.

Admittedly, security queues at American airports are far worse than at Australian ones. Travellers are told to arrive at least 90 minutes before domestic flights for some airports, to allow time for the lengthy queues and checks by blue-gloved TSA officials, who are authorised to frisk people's whole bodies, including genital regions.

It's not the first time the issue of paying for faster security checks has been raised.

Just two weeks ago, US airline Jetblue introduced an "even more speed" ticket option which provided a dedicated security queue for people willing to pay.

The cost ranges from $10 for short flights to $100 for the longest flights, but also bestows other benefits on the traveller such as extra legroom at the front of the plane and exit row seats, early boarding -- and, most importantly for the carry-on luggage obsessed USA, first shot at the overhead bins for your ridiculously large wheeled suitcase.

In Australia, Qantas and Virgin Australia have both started introducing priority security lanes, but at this stage they are not for sale -- they are for the use of gold/platinum tiers of the airlines' frequent flyer programs.

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