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European airlines, airports and authorities welcome BA criticism of UK security

28-Oct-2010 10:18 AM

European airlines, airports and authorities welcomed British Airways Chairman Martin Broughton criticism of security procedures at UK airports, in which he called on the Government to stop “kowtowing” to US Government demands for heightened security (The Financial Times, 26-Oct-2010).

  • Government responses:
    • UK Transport Secretary Phillip Hammond this week back a review of airport security, but noted that it would have to be done in coordination with the EU (Associated Press/New York Times, 27-Oct-2010). However, the UK Government distanced itself from the argument on 27-Oct-2010, stating additional security regulations from the US were a matter for carriers operating to the country. It added its security measures go further than minimum EU requirements and it has “one of the safest systems in the world” ;
    • European Union criticised the US’ Electronic System for Travel Authorisation, which processed 13 million registrations from Europe in 2009. The EU stated the system is “inconsistent with the often repeated commitment by the US to facilitate trans-Atlantic mobility and legitimate travel and trade in a secure environment” and “represents a burden for European citizens”;
    • US TSA responded stating it “works closely with our international partners to ensure the best possible security. We constantly review and evolve our security measures based on the latest intelligence”;
    • Previous UK Security Minister Alan West supported Mr Broughton's comments, stating a multinational agreement on airport safety could result in “much less onerous” processes.
  • Airport responses:
    • BAA CEO Colin Matthews admitted security at the airports is subject to regulations set by the US, as well as European and domestic authorities. He admitted that elements of the security regime, such as the screening of passengers’ shoes, has made passengers uncomfortable (guardian.co.uk, 27-Oct-2010). Mr Matthews added talks with the UK Department for Transport are ongoing and he is “reasonably optimistic” the passenger experience can be improved, “while keeping safety as the principal concern”.
  • Airline responses:
    • easyJet stated the government needs to “adopt smarter ways of dealing with” security concerns;
    • Virgin Atlantic also agreed with the comments;
    • Lufthansa admitted there have been “more and more regulations since 9/11” but stated it is “not for us to say” whether the regime is too strict.
  • Airline association responses:
    • BAR UK CEO Mike Carrivick stated that there appears to be a “layered approach to security”, adding authorities need to “step back and have a look at the whole situation” (The Independent, 28-Oct-2010);
    • British Airline Pilots' Association (BALPA) welcomed (27-Oct-2010) Mr Broughton's comments. BALPA stated Britain's airline pilots believe aviation security should be a threat-based process applying security measures on the latest intelligence - focusing valuable resources where there is a true threat to the safety of an aircraft and its passengers. The current UK policy which views everyone and everything as a threat is at odds with such a process; [more]
  • Security industry responses:
    • Smiths Detection cautioned countries against developing security policies on their own.

UK Labour Party: “We have had requirement on requirement laid on top of each other, and certainly I need to be convinced about all these various layers. I do think it does need to be rationalised because I think we have gone too far. There are too many layers, too much inconsistency,” Admiral Lord Alan West, former UK Government Security Minister. Source: Associated Press, 27-Oct-2010.

BAA: “I do think that if we could start from a clean sheet of paper and design a coherent overall process then we would be in a better place. What we have today is the result of incremental additions being laid on top of each other. We could certainly do a better job for customers if we can rationalise them. There are some aspects which have been frustrating to everyone, but equally everyone understands we have to keep the passenger safe. I certainly agree that taking shoes off in a security lane is, for some people, extremely uncomfortable and difficult. If we could find a way of avoiding it, it would make life more comfortable for passengers who find it difficult to bend down and take their shoes off and then put them back on again,” Colin Matthews, CEO. Source: Associated Press/guardian.co.uk, 27-Oct-2010.

easyJet: “As the threat that faces us becomes increasingly sophisticated, we need to adopt smarter ways of dealing with that threat. We want to work with the authorities and the rest of the industry to move away from crude, blanket security checks, which inconvenience all passengers, to more intelligent processes,” Company Statement. Source: guardian.co.uk, 27-Oct-2010.

Virgin Atlantic: “We have said for many years that new technology is urgently needed to ensure that security checks in airports are effective but quicker and less intrusive on our passengers,” Company Statement. Source: Associated Press, 27-Oct-2010.

BALPA: "These procedures currently employ a 'catch all' approach, lacking true focus on the very real threat from international terrorism that faces both UK and International aviation," Jim McAuslan, General Secretary. Source: BALPA, 27-Oct-2010.

BAR UK: “There seems to be a layered approach to security at airports. Every time there is a new security scare, an extra layer is added on to procedures. We need to step back and have a look at the whole situation. Standards change fairly regularly and this puts pressure on airports and airlines. We need to decide what we are trying to do and how best to do it,” Mike Carrivick, CEO. Source: The Independent, 28-Oct-2010.

Smiths Detection: “There is no one single solution to aviation security and we strongly agree that there should be common international standards. These standards should help ensure consistency of security measures, airport efficiency and customer experience,” Stephen Phipson, President. Source: guardian.co.uk, 27-Oct-2010.