The Maryland Transportation Authority Police have provided armed escorts at taxpayer expense to sports celebrities and other VIPs when they board commercial flights at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, reports the Baltimore Sun. The curb-to-plane escorts enable the celebrities to avoid long lines at security gates, allowing them to arrive as little as half an hour before a flight. Police Chief Gary McLhinney said the six-member executive protection unit was designed not to cater to celebrities but “to avoid any disturbances in the airport.”
Officials from airports in such cities as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, Houston, Washington, D.C., and Orlando said they know of no standing arrangements under which sports or entertainment celebrities receive an escort from an armed officer in the absence of a specific threat. Typically, government officials supply their own armed security when they pass through airports. One beneficiary of the escort service is former Baltimore Orioles star Cal Ripken, who has received such escorts at least 18 times since 2003.