A stunned reaction has followed reports that the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is considering eliminating security checkpoints at small and mid-sized airports.

CNN reports that under the proposal currently being studied, passenger screening would be ended at 150 airports across the US.

Ending screening of travellers and their luggage at airports served by planes carrying 60 or fewer passengers would result in “small (non-zero) undesirable increase in risk related to additional adversary opportunity” — in other words, minimal, but still some, heightened risk of a terrorist attack — according to TSA internal documents.

The agency said the move could save $115 million annually.

“Al Qaeda and Isis still regard aviation as a priority target — that includes aircraft where you have fewer than 60 people on board,” said CNN terrorism analyst Peter Cruickshank.

“They would see that as a way to hit the headlines. They would see that as a way to inflict severe economic damage on the United States.

“If you have an aircraft of 50 or so people being blown out of the sky there is going to be a great amount of panic and there will indeed be significant economic reverberations, and of course significant loss of life.”

Some TSA officials also expressed concern, albeit anonymously, about the proposal.