27 Oct 2010

BA chief attacks airport security checks

The British Airways chairman says UK airports should stop “kowtowing” to US security demands and attacks “redundant” passenger checks, which experts tell Channel 4 News are out of date.


BA chairman Martin Broughton. (Reuters)

In the comments quoted in the Financial Times, he said that no-one wanted weak security, but added: “We all know there’s quite a number of elements in the security programme which are completely redundant and they should be sorted out.”

These included the requirement to remove footwear, brought in after British “shoe bomber” Richard Reid hid explosives in his shoes on a transatlantic flight in 2001, as well as inconsistent approaches to laptops and other equipment.

“Take the iPad, they still haven’t decided if it is a laptop or it isn’t a laptop. So some airports think you should take it out and some think you shouldn’t,” Mr Broughton said.

Security is and will remain a continuing challenge to the industry. Transport Secretary Philip Hammond


Key figures in the aviation industry today backed Mr Broughton’s comments, saying there needed to be an overhaul of security checks.

Mike Carrivick, chief executive of BAR UK, which represents more than 80 scheduled airlines in the UK including Virgin Atlantic and Continental Airlines, said the whole question of airport policy needed to be looked at.

And Colin Matthews, chief executive of airport operator BAA, spoke of “rationalising” security procedures, while former security minister Lord West said airport checks were “onerous” and had gone too far.

Airline pilots’ union Balpa welcomed Mr Broughton’s words. Its general secretary, Jim McAuslan, said: “These procedures currently employ a ‘catch all’ approach, lacking true focus on the very real threat from international terrorism that faces both UK and international aviation.”

New regulatory system

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond, also speaking at the Airport Operators Association conference, said he intended to develop a new regulatory system for security.

“Security is and will remain a continuing challenge to the industry and the delivery of effective aviation security must be at the heart of the aviation policy debate,” he said.

“I have listened to your concerns regarding the need to reform the regulatory framework for aviation security.

“And 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 to deliver them in line with EU requirements.”