Published May 1, 2008 | May 2008 issue
At most airports federal security screening is seen as a necessary evil. Not so at airports in Miles City, Sidney, Glasgow and four other rural communities in eastern Montana where passengers board aircraft without being screened. Airport directors and local officials want the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to start putting passengers through the wringer, even though doing so will require local investments in infrastructure and law enforcement.
Currently, passengers from these small airports fly into Billings. Those traveling beyond Billings are screened upon arrival at that airport—a time-consuming, irritating affair for business travelers. Local officials argue that screening at the originating airports would ease the security logjam, promoting commerce. The TSA has resisted providing screening at the small airports. They are unlikely terrorist targets, the agency said, and the cost of screening low volumes of passengers would be "exorbitant"—over $80 per person, compared with an average of $3.20 per head at all U.S. airports.