updated 1/11/2010 12:07:25 PM ET 2010-01-11T17:07:25

European airport operators warned Monday that new security measures proposed by President Obama could burden budgets and push up ticket prices at a time when civil aviation is experiencing its worst downturn in decades.

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The continent's airport trade body is appealing to European governments to finance any additional security procedures like the installation of full-body scanners, said Robert O'Meara, spokesman for the Brussels-based Airports Council International Europe.

O'Meara said airports may be forced to pass any new security fees on to the traveling public, although during an economic crisis this would likely only result in further cuts in passenger numbers.

"It varies from airport to airport," he said. "Some will absorb the costs while others will have to pass them on to the airlines and passengers."

President Barak Obama announced plans for improved screening in the wake of the Christmas Day bombing attempt on an airliner bound from Amsterdam to Detroit. The failed attack led to calls for wider use of full-body scanners, now in regular use at only a few U.S. airports. The Transport Security Administration already has plans to buy 300 more of the devices in 2010.

Fabio Pirotta, a spokesman for the European Commission, said that no further aviation security measures have so far been introduced by the EU. But Pirotta did not exclude that those may be made in the future.

According to Eurocontrol, Europe's air traffic agency, there are an average of about 800 flights per day between Europe and the United States.

Although the European Union regulates security procedures in the 27-nation bloc, it has left it up to member states and airport operators to decide whether to mandate the use of body scanners.

Europe is the only part of the world where almost all governments refuse to pay for aviation security, which leaves airports footing the bill. Security already accounts for 35 percent of European airports' operating costs, in comparison with just 8 percent in 2001, and more than 40 percent of airport employees now are security-related staff.

Some airports, including London's Heathrow and Amsterdam's Schiphol, have indicated they may install the devices — which can "see" through clothing — for passengers on all trans-Atlantic flights. Schiphol alone plans to procure 60 of the machines.

If body scanners, each of which costs between 100,000 ($145,000) and 160,000 euros apiece, become mandatory, airports would also have to incur additional costs for staff training and for the expansion and other changes to security screening areas to accommodate them.

The airlines have in the past strongly resisted having such security costs passed on to them.

According to ACI Europe's figures, during 2009 the number of passengers at Europe's 410 airports dropped by 105 million from 1.47 billion as a result of the ongoing global economic recession.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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