Airlines reject curbside checks floated after Brussels bombs

The current system of airport screening is effective but extremely expensive. Photo / iStock
The current system of airport screening is effective but extremely expensive. Photo / iStock

Airlines are opposed to screening passengers just before they enter an airport, with such steps - widely proposed after the March 22 bombings in Brussels - likely to increase waiting times and prove ineffective in preventing attacks, the International Air Transport Association said.

Carriers instead favor the streamlining of security through a risk-based approach and wider adoption of more modern systems including self-service technology that would raise the hurdles facing would-be terrorists, IATA Chief Executive Officer Tony Tyler said Thursday.

The trade body takes the view that curbside screening would not only lengthen lines and expose travelers to inclement weather outside the terminal, but also create large crowds that could themselves become the target of attacks.

The Brussels Zaventem hub adopted scans for people seeking to enter its buildings after terrorists exploded bombs in the departure hall, killing 11 people and injuring more than 80.

Passengers in India must present their ticket and proof of identity on arrival and have their bags screened and sealed.

Tyler, addressing IATA's annual gathering of airline CEOs, held in Dublin, said states should make full use of "known-traveler" data provided by carriers. Used mainly in the United States, such programs expedite processing of frequent flyers so that security is focused on the most likely transgressors, he said.

IATA also backs risk-assessment of passengers by providing governments with advance information on customers, Tyler said.

"The current system of airport screening is effective but extremely expensive," the CEO said. "Passengers routinely rate it as the worst aspect of their journey." Rising traveler volumes are another reason for seeking smoother processing, with existing mechanisms unlikely to cope with increases, he said.

Bernard Gustin, CEO of Brussels Air, the carrier that faced the most disruption after the Zaventem attacks, said at the IATA gathering that there must be more "homogeneity" among intelligence services battling the terrorist threat, especially since the attackers were already known to security services.

Aircraft operators are supportive of the United Nations-mandated International Civil Aviation Organization's moves to reduce the likelihood of aircraft going missing -- like the Malaysia Airlines jet lost in 2014 -- and make crash probes less reliant on the recovery of black-box flight recorders, Tyler said.

Planes flying outside areas with constant air traffic control surveillance will need to broadcast key information on their position and performance every 15 minutes by 2018, ICAO decided in March.

From 2021, new aircraft must carry recorders that retain 25 hours of cockpit sounds and conversations, instead of the current two-hour standard, together with technology that releases streams of information on parameters such as altitude, cabin pressure and temperature every 60 seconds once a "distress" situation has been identified.

Further options being explored include constant data transmissions and the possibility of fitting black-boxes that eject from an aircraft in the event of a crash into water, allowing investigators to find them more quickly.

Tim Clark, president of Dubai-based Emirates, the biggest long-haul carrier, said in an IATA debate that standards of aircraft tracking "are a disgrace," calling for more robust black boxes and improved location transmitters.

Airlines should ultimately know almost immediately when an abnormal situation develops, and the task facing investigators in the event of a crash should be made easier, Gilberto Lopez Meyer, IATA's senior vice president for safety and flight operations, said in a briefing at the Dublin meeting.

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