Securing Air Travel
© 2006 FrontLine Security (Vol 1, No 2)

Protecting our passengers and employees with effective and efficient security measures is the highest priority for the aviation industry. However, since the tragic events of September 11, 2001, the airline industry has endured a continuous stream of stopgap security measures – many of these were rushed into effect with little or no industry input. What we are finding, is that a security system designed through hastened reaction to a crisis may not be the best long-term solution for the industry.

Four years after 9/11, security measures are still not effectively harmonized across borders, passengers still have long queues, and behind the scenes, the battle with bureaucracy continues.

Incompatible regulations cause needless duplication of inspections and a squandering of scarce security resources. Security does not have to be inconvenient to be effective – nor should the industry have to shoulder the burden of US$5.6 billion in annual security costs when security is a national responsibility.

Airlines are keen to work with governments, and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is directly involved in a number of projects to represent the vision of the international airline community in ensuring high security levels. These projects involve the IATA Security Group (SEG) covering the airline industry and the Global Aviation Security Action Group (GASAG) which encompasses the entire aviation industry.

The IATA SEG, comprised of 10 heads of airline security, provides advice and guidance to the industry on security measures to ensure safe, secure and efficient air transport. Covering passenger, baggage and cargo security, plus other “aircraft security” issues, the group develops recommendations to combat acts of unlawful interference against civil aviation in general and the airline industry in particular.

GASAG, consisting of representatives from IATA, airlines, aircraft manufacturers, airports and flight crew, has also weighed in on these security measures. GASAG works with governments to ensure that security measures are effective, globally recognized and operationally manageable.

Through the SEG and the GASAG we are working to shape global policies on important aviation security issues such as:

• Sky Marshals/Flight Deck Doors
Unlawful interference should be prevented on the ground. However, where nations mandate the use of armed in-flight security personnel, they must have responsibility for funding (including travel), selection, training, ­control and tasking of such personnel.

The industry fully supports implementation of International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards regarding enhanced security flight deck door technology and related procedures. Speci­fi­cally, ICAO standards state that flight deck doors should be closed and locked at all times as far as practicable and, appropriate communication procedures between the flight deck and authorized personnel in the cabin must be established. In the longer term, taking into account all practical problems and cost effectiveness, the installation of a surveillance system to allow the flight crew to monitor the entrance to the cockpit is also advisable.

• Man Portable Air Defense Systems
Governments have the responsibility for protection of civil aircraft operating in or through its airspace. This includes protection against attack by MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defense Systems) on civil ­aircraft operating at vulnerable altitudes, particularly during the takeoff and landing phases at airports in that country.

All countries should have MANPADS threat response plans that include protocols for air traffic control/management and the assignment of resources to implement immediately when a credible threat has been identified. Further, all airports and airlines should be advised of the existence of a MANPADS threat and the counter measures initiated, so that they may take this risk into consideration in their operations including the viability of continued operations to and from a particular ­airport.

Although much emphasis is currently being placed on onboard technical countermeasure systems, they are but one ­possible counter measure available and, in the opinion of IATA, not feasible in most circumstances. Government and industry should consider other options such as technical and non-technical ground-based countermeasures and intensified anti-proliferation efforts employed in a layered defense against this threat. And under no circumstances should a country requiring such onboard systems for aircraft, allow installation of these systems on aircraft that are not on their register.

• Hold Baggage Screening
IATA has developed, with Airports Council International (ACI), an industry position on 100% hold baggage screening (HBS) systems. The aviation industry supported the implementation of 100% HBS in accordance with the ICAO deadline of 1 January 2006. The IATA/ACI position paper, as well as IATA efforts on facilitating implementation of global 100% HBS, resulted in only minor disruptions in a small number of countries.

IATA has also encouraged trials on biometric technologies to speed the flow of passengers through border and customs controls while enhancing aviation security. This will reduce the “hassle factor” which is discouraging many passengers from flying and could be a significant ­factor in reinstating public confidence in air travel.

• Cargo Security
IATA’s goal is to work with regulators to enhance cargo security measures, in a practical way, through stakeholder advisory mechanisms similar to those that have been established in the United States, Canada and the EU. Major government-led ­initiatives to enhance cargo and supply chain security, through the development of risk-based screening ­protocols and the promotion of regulated agent and known shipper/consignor ­systems, are underway in Europe, the United States, and Canada. This combines with an industry-led ­initiative in the Asia-Pacific region and a similar effort planned for Latin America in 2007. IATA is playing a key role toward ­providing industry input in all of these efforts.

The IATA is also working with other industry stakeholders to design the air cargo transportation and supply chain security system of the future. The goal is to simultaneously enhance security and facilitation of air cargo, to ensure that this critical element of global commerce (40% of the value of all goods moved by air) remains viable.

In the meantime, the IATA has worked with authorities in the U.S., EU and others to remove certain screening requirements that only served to impede the efficient movement of cargo without any practical security result.

• Passenger Facilitation
IATA has also participated in industry work to improve passenger flows through enhanced security screening at airports. Industry input in 2005 led to: a reduction in average security processing times (from 60 to 30 minutes at Los Angeles Bradley International Terminal); more efficient processing methods; increased customer service at immigration desks in Miami; and the effective implementation of a sterile terminal concept in Tegucigalpa.

• Security Management Systems
IATA is promoting the concept of Security Management Systems (SEMS), which borrows from the highly successful Safety Management Systems (SMS) which has assisted the industry in driving down the accident rate despite substantial increases in traffic. SEMS is an objective- and results-oriented approach that seeks to put in place proper structures and systems to ensure the delivery of high levels of security without the need to resort to overly prescriptive regulatory requirements that inhibit operational flexibility.

Over the past four years, regulatory efforts and the establishment of tighter and stricter aviation security measures (such as better screening, reconciling passengers and their checked baggage, and the “known shipper” programs for air cargo) have made travel and shipping more secure. But there has been a high cost to the industry and great inconvenience to passengers and shippers. The year 2006 should mark the beginning of a period where both industry and regulators find common ground and devise more practical, proactive and risk-based solutions to enhance aviation security.

Any security measures being considered for the airline industry must be based on the threat. History shows us that those developed and implemented as knee-jerk reactions to fear and political pressure are neither effective nor efficient. The world economy depends on air transport, and the IATA is working with both industry and world governments to ensure that long-term security solutions are developed to keep the aviation industry secure and robust.  

Kenneth Dunlap is the Director, Security North America, with the International Air Transport Association.
© FrontLine Security 2006