Plane Crazy 3? The Fight for Air Passenger Safety!

The week-end has brought more revelations about aircraft security, which provides for a worrying and terrifying prospect for passengers simply seeking to travel from A to B! 

Watching the events unfold at East Midlands Airport on Friday, you could be forgiven for feeling reassured that everything had been checked and that there was no cause for alarm! In the early hours of Saturday morning there was either a seismic shift in intelligence received or backsides were kicked by our cousins from across the Atlantic!

The flurry of activity resulted in the Home Secretary reporting a 'viable' device followed by the full picture being opened for scrutiny over the week-end.  Remember it was only a few days earlier when the Chairman of British Airways opened the debate on airport security, with the Secretary of State for Transport stating that he would “be allowing airlines to look at ways of “easing the passenger experience”.

Where have they been over the week-end; surely this was the time to stand by the courage of their convictions? 

We have heard nothing that is until this morning, when the boss of Ryanair uttered words that those in Authority would prefer were not said at this time! 

On the BBC he stated that we should not overreact and apply further measures which would be ‘ludicrous and ineffective’! 

The opposing side of the argument was presented by the ex-Assistant Commissioner for Special Operations for the Met Police, Andy Hayman; he described how the ‘terror’ game had changed and that Friday's events demonstrated a 'stuttering' moment at East Midlands Airport. 

It might be just as well to review the comments we published back in 2008, expressing our concerns on the consistency and logic of airport security, they included: 

  1. Lack of consistency on publicly accessible areas;
  2. Fortification of airports;
  3. Wholesale photographing of visitors to the airport;
  4. The effectiveness of the security measures;
  5. The inconsistencies of the carriage of liquids;
  6. We queried whether we had the correct set of priorities where airport security was concerned 

This was not an attempt by us to do away with security measures, rather to ask, had we got it right; were security measures applied uniformly, consistently and with the rigour and logic that would make us feel safer? 

Last week’s attempt by the aviation industry to influence the airport security debate missed out two important factors; the Consumer and the ingenuity of those who would seek to spread harm! 

The Consumer must be placed at the centre of any debate on airport security; their security is paramount and any notion that the passenger experience would be enhanced by less security or it should be changed, which would then to build in efficiencies into airline operations, must be dismissed. 

The best balanced article I have read on this whole debate was written by Martin Rivers in The Guardian; he exposes the inconsistencies of the debate itself!  On the issue of the measures taken to date, he states, 

“Each of these measures has provoked a public reaction. Each can quite justly be ridiculed as ineffective when taken in isolation. But taken en masse – woven into a tapestry of good intelligence and behavioural profiling – they remain our only safety net. O'Leary and Broughton are wrong when they call shoe-checking "redundant". As long as al-Qaida is devoted to finding gaps in airport security, we must be devoted to plugging them”. 

So perhaps the best way to finish this blog is to repeat my previous words;

“So Minister, before you rush off to create the conditions that will allow airlines to decide our destiny, why don’t you give a moment’s thought to the very Consumers of the flight product; time I think for you to start work on strengthening that passenger representation you spoke about.  Ask them if they feel safer, ask them what matters, and ask them how the security experience can be improved?

Better still, why don’t you talk to the families of those passengers who have perished on aircraft destroyed by terrorist actions and ask them what they think?

Now is the time to strengthen air passenger safety rights and not allow them to be lost in the fog of deregulation!”

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