Rebellion against 'redundant' airline security rules grows

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The Independent Online

The chairman of British Airways won support in the aviation industry last night for attacking "redundant" anti-terror checks imposed by the US, as calls grew for easier passage through British airports.

Martin Broughton said passengers should no longer be required to take off their shoes or have their laptops checked separately in security lines.

Britain should not be required to impose security restrictions on its own passengers that the United States did not deem necessary for domestic flights, the chairman told the annual conference of the UK Airport Operators Association in London.

His comments immediately struck a chord with many in the industry, receiving backing from airport and airline operators as well as pilots, security experts and passenger groups.

"America does not do internally a lot of the things they demand that we do. We shouldn't stand for that. We should say, 'We'll only do things which we consider to be essential and that you Americans also consider essential'," said Mr Broughton. "We all know there's quite a number of elements in the security programme which are completely redundant and they should be sorted out."

Mr Broughton decried the requirement to remove footwear, brought in after British "shoe bomber" Richard Reid hid explosives in his shoes on a transatlantic flight in 2001, and insisted there was an inconsistent approach to laptops and other equipment.

The overall threat level in the UK remains at severe but the industry insisted that a more rationalised approach could be taken. In January the US introduced even tighter screening rules, including body pat-down searches and carry-on baggage checks, in the wake of an alleged bomb plot.

Earlier this month Olivier Jankovec, director general of Airports Council International Europe, said that the current approach appeared to be reactive and the system was unsustainable. It had cast a "huge shadow" over the passenger experience, he added yesterday. While the cost in the US was borne by the Government, in Europe it was the airports that had to shoulder the burden, he said, at times passing it on to the airlines or passengers. While security represented 5 to 8 per cent of airport operating costs in 2001, that figure had jumped to 35 per cent. "Now 41 per cent of airport staff are security related. Airports are almost turning into security companies," he said.

Mr Jankovec said it was time to take a fresh approach looking at advancements in technology as well as deterrence: "We think there needs to be a change in philosophy. It is far too focused on the airport. Someone with malicious intent does not suddenly decide in the airport. Intelligence capabilities can be put to better use."

Aviation security expert Chris Yates agreed that scanning technology could ease out certain practices, adding: "Metal detectors at airports are sensitive enough to pick up the metal strap in my leather shoe so they should be able to detect whatever else might be hidden in the heel of that shoe."

Yesterday Mike Carrivick, chief executive of BAR UK, which represents more than 80 airlines, former security minister Lord West, Colin Matthews, chief executive of airport operator BAA, all said that there was too many layers to an inconsistent security system.

Responding to the comments, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond, told the conference: "I intend to develop a new regulatory system – one where the Government concentrates on setting the security outcomes that need to be achieved, and frees up operators to devise the security processes needed."