British Airways has quietly hived off its baggage security arm to a US company.
Atlanta-based Argenbright will oversee the baggage of the British airline's passengers worldwide, under a contract that will be reviewed in 1995.
Aviation Defence Limited (ADL), BA's wholly owned security firm, has been effectively wound up and all 400 of its employees placed on secondment to Aviation Defence International (ADI), a specially created branch of Argenbright.
Ever since the Lockerbie bombing almost four years ago, airlines have become increasingly anxious about baggage security and its implications. Specialist companies have profited from their concern. Argenbright has become the market leader, looking after security for United, Delta and American Airlines.
ADL was set up on the recommendation of Control Risks, the specialist firm of security consultants brought in by BA to advise on its arrangements. It said the company should separate baggage from its large internal security operation. Last July, Chris Swan, head of security services, was put in charge of ADL. He was answerable to David Hyde, the airline's director of security. Staff were 'invited' to join the new company, but many resigned, forcing ADL to recruit new personnel.
BA also transferred its security equipment, including explosive vapour detectors and X- Ray machines, to ADL.
However, Argenbright has now been called in. A BA spokesman said: 'We recognised that aviation security in future would have two priorities: to maintain and increase capability of threat assessment - looking at who is out there and what they are capable of - and to react appropriately, which involves technology and people.'
Threat assessment, which entails the airline liaising with intelligence agencies worldwide, has been kept in-house. BA is also relying heavily on the services of Ian Johnson, a former Control Risks member and Army Intelligence officer. He now runs his own private security business, Ian Johnson Associates, based in Surrey.
Mr Johnson has been retained by BA to advise on executive protection and risk analysis.
Baggage security has moved entirely outside. 'We recognised we required more and more effort in exploring new technology and recruiting people,' said the BA spokesman. 'We have contracted Argenbright to perform our operational security.'
IN last week's article on baggage security, we described Ian Johnson as a former member of Control Risks. We have been asked to point out that Control Risks has never employed or had any relationship with Mr Johnson.