11 MAY 2009

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Article from BTNews 11 MAY 2009

COMMENT: The French drop security standards

France has followed a number of European countries, but not the UK, in introducing what is known as One-Stop-Security.  Passengers that have already been screened at a European airport will not need to be looked at a second time when making flight connections at French international hubs.  The new policy will be applied to individual airports this year, starting with Lyon and selected terminals at Paris Charles de Gaulle.

It could be construed that the French are lowering their security standards. 

In Britain, tiresome as it is, transiting passengers, originating from anywhere, except domestic, have to go through the tedious x-ray and search routine.  It matters not whether flying in from Bucharest, Ljubljana or Sofia you get the same treatment.  As regards security the British government has not sacrificed control to Brussels.  In this vital area at least we are still our own bosses. 

Whilst standards have improved considerably since Lockerbie in 1988 the facts are that the bomb originated at Malta not Heathrow.  That airport, like the ones in the previous paragraph, is now in the EU.

BAA is the UK’s largest airport operator.  "BAA will continue to work with the DfT in maintaining the highest standards of security across its airports," said a spokesperson.  At the Department for Transport (DfT) the status quo remains.

AERBT is of the view that any reduction of standards should be frowned upon.  It is a necessary evil not withstanding the inconvenience and general nuisance it creates. 

What is noticeable is that at the major British hubs inbound and outbound passengers do not meet airside at any point.  Providing this level of separation is clearly expensive.  This is certainly not the case at certain continental operations where the two streams do cross-over.  Likewise in the US where, to be fair, at the big hubs it would be virtually impossible to segregate domestic travellers when congregating airside.

It is worrying that the International Air Transport Association (IATA), has welcomed the French adoption of a One-Stop Security.  Since his appointment as Director General and CEO in June 2002 Giovanni Bisignani has proved to be an effective and charismatic leader of a generally excellent trade organisation.

Commenting on the new French arrangements he had this to say:

“The business case for One-Stop Security is clear: faster, hassle-free connections for passengers and lower security costs for everyone involved.  There is no compromise on quality.  I urge other states – particularly the UK and Ireland – to come on board quickly.”  IATA estimates that the new moves will impact six million passengers and save USD30m a year, figures hard to justify.

AERBT disagrees and urges the British government not to follow this path.

Only Heathrow of UK airports has transiting traffic of any numbers.  The elimination of security for these passengers would give some cost saving, that is true, but at what potential drop in safety principles.  It is our contention that BAA would be wrong to even consider an approach to the DfT to attempt to lower standards. 

If the French, or indeed any other country, wish to pursue this risky procedure it is entirely up to them.  Would they consider putting up large advertisements in New York?

“Visiting Europe? – Travel home via Paris – No security controls to slow you down.”  We rather think not!

Malcolm Ginsberg

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