A cost-benefit analysis of alternative device configurations for aviation-checked baggage security screening

Sheldon H. Jacobson, Tamana Karnani, John E. Kobza, Lynsey Ritchie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 have resulted in dramatic changes in aviation security. As of early 2003, an estimated 1,100 explosive detection systems (EDS) and 6,000 explosive trace detection machines (ETD) have been deployed to ensure 100% checked baggage screening at all commercial airports throughout the United States. The prohibitive costs associated with deploying and operating such devices is a serious issue for the Transportation Security Administration. This article evaluates the cost effectiveness of the explosive detection technologies currently deployed to screen checked baggage as well as new technologies that could be used in the future. Both single-device and two-device systems are considered. In particular, the expected annual direct cost of using these devices for 100% checked baggage screening under various scenarios is obtained and the tradeoffs between using single- and two-device strategies are studied. The expected number of successful threats under the different checked baggage screening scenarios with 100% checked baggage screening is also obtained. Lastly, a risk-based screening strategy proposed in the literature is analyzed. The results reported suggest that for the existing security setup, with current device costs and probability parameters, single-device systems are less costly and have fewer expected number of successful threats than two-device systems due to the way the second device affects the alarm or clear decision. The risk-based approach is found to have the potential to significantly improve security. The cost model introduced provides an effective tool for the execution of cost-benefit analyses of alternative device configurations for aviation-checked baggage security screening.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)297-310
Number of pages14
JournalRisk Analysis
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2006


  • Aviation security
  • Cost benefit
  • Economic analysis
  • Risk assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Physiology (medical)


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