Regulators should be assessing costs and benefits before imposing security regulations on the aviation industry, says the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines.

With great success, regulators have improved passenger safety over many decades while weighing potential gains against the disadvantages of new rules, says Andrew Herdman, director general of the association. The calculation is not easy, especially since it implies putting a value on life, but it can be done and is done. According to Herdman, the same approach should apply to security, too.

Costs of security measures are not just monetary and borne by airlines. Passenger time, which has a value, is lost in prolonged security checks, and there is also the inconvenience of being unable to carry certain items on board. Some monetary costs are borne by airports and freight customers.

The argument is not that security from terrorist attack is unnecessary, nor even that any particular measure is not worthwhile; rather, Herdman urges that each measure needs to be rationally justified.

Once imposed, security rules are hard to remove. “It takes a moment’s decision to make them and then years to put them back on the tables of ministers,” Herdman says. When doubts eventually arise, it often takes a ministerial-level decision to set a rule aside.

The Asia-Pacific airlines that are members of the association not only endure the costs of safety measures; they also have little ability to influence them, since the rules almost all come from the U.S. and Europe. Travelers and freight customers in the region similarly lack influence.

The association believes that in at least one case a security measure could, if properly handled, create side benefit. As destination countries demand more information about passengers, at the cost of privacy, then they could at least use the information that they have already collected to speed up border-entry procedures.