New security rules will apply to cargo flying with passengers

Spectators look at an Airbus A380 airplane flying above them.


Steve Chiotakis: New rules for air cargo start next week. All shipments that fly along with passengers on commercial planes must be screened for security. The shipping industry has had a few years to work up to the new rules, but there have been setbacks, as Marketplace's Eve Troeh reports.

Eve Troeh: Most travellers have no idea the belly of their plane is filled with much more than luggage.

Peter Quinter: Virtually all passenger flights have cargo. Might be electronics, might be food products, any kind of merchandise.

Peter Quinter is a customs lawyer in Florida, a major shipping hub:

Quinter: Most passenger airlines, a huge percentage of their revenue and more of their profits come from cargo than from passengers.

But all that cargo is a security risk.

Quinter: So it might go from Hong Kong to Singapore, Singapore to London, London to New York.

Homeland Security sees those transfers as weak links, where someone could sneak a bomb onto a plane.

Up to now only a percentage of cargo has been screened. Starting Sunday every shipment must be certified. It's taken years to build systems to do this, says David Brooks. He's president of American Airlines' cargo division.

David Brooks: There hasn't been devices that can accommodate the small envelope all the way up to the 10,000-pound palletes that we may get.

Picture those X-ray conveyor belts for luggage, but big enough for a hot tub. Brooks says American Airlines alone spent $10 million on new screening gear. It will charge clients for the service. And those companies will pass the cost along to you and me.

Brooks: Cell phones, computers, all the things that tend to go by air, at the end of the day it's going to be the consumers who are gonna see more cost.

But that's the price of increased security.

In Los Angeles, I'm Eve Troeh for Marketplace.

About the author

Eve Troeh is News Director at WWNO-FM in New Orleans, La., helping build the first public radio news department in the station’s 40-year history. She reported for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk from 2010 to 2013.


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