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IATA urges governments to remember lessons from electronics ban

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) CEO and Director General, Alexandre de Juniac reminded airlines to consult with the group in decision making when it comes to security, during the IATA World Conference in Abu Dhabi

He cautioned the rest of the delegates to be mindful of the lessons that were learned from the electronics ban imposed earlier this year.

“Threats to aviation are real. And we understand that sometimes, unilateral additional measures of an extraterritorial nature may be unavoidable. But these cannot be long-term solutions and airlines should not be caught in the middle, picking up the pieces and bearing unplanned expenses for an indeterminate period when governments cannot agree on measures needed for the security of their citizens,” de Juniac said.

IATA proposed the establishing of global standards for security, which are fit for the global industry.

“States are responsible for implementing effective security measures. Annex 17 of the Chicago Convention – which has been in place for four decades — makes this clear. But shockingly 40% of states have struggled to implement even its baseline requirements. This is not good enough,” said de Juniac.

Better information sharing, de Juniac pointed out, would have helped sidestep the troublesome effects of the Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs) ban slapped on some routes to the US and UK for those governments.

The different restrictions applied and different airlines chosen led to confusion, and the short turnaround time caused so many airlines to rush to be in compliance.

At the time the bans were announced, there was no consideration by governments of the fire risk, which might result from storing large numbers of portable electronics devices in the hull of the aircraft.

Airlines expressed strongly their concern over this particular risk. This July, the Federal Aviation Administration publicized a report in the form of an InFO (Information for Operators) document indication a significant risk of fires and explosions when damaged or faulty lithium batteries go into thermal runaway near volatile items in luggage, even something that might seem harmless like hairspray cans.

IATA also critiqued governments for a lack of sufficient and timely information sharing on those security risks revealed by intelligence efforts, specifically pointing out the tragic missile attack on flight MH17 that killed 298 people.

“While governments have the primary responsibility for security, we share the priority of keeping passengers, crew and aircraft secure. Intelligence is key.

“This is the only way to stop terrorists. And we fully support the addition of an information-sharing requirement to Annex 17 of the Chicago Convention. It is a step in the right direction, but it falls short of the true multi-lateral information sharing of risk information that is needed.

“Airlines don’t want access to state secrets. But if airlines understand the outcome governments want, they can help with the operational experience to deliver results effectively and efficiently,” explained de Juniac.

IATA lauded the benefits of technology to augment the design and enforcement of security procedures. For example, the usage of enhanced explosive trace detection (ETD) technology aided in the lifting the ban on large PEDs in the aircraft cabin in the US.

IATA also lent its support to new certification procedures for aviation security technologies, including work being carried out by the TSA Innovation Task Force and the UK’s Future Aviation Security Solutions program (FASS).

“It would be a shame if we cannot use the result of these efforts quickly and globally to accommodate repeated certification processes,” the IATA boss said.

IATA also added that information technology and biometrics should be used “more intensely” to validate passenger information at airport checkpoints and to develop “known traveller” programs.

“IATA’s Global Passenger Survey highlights that passengers are frustrated with security and border control processes; and they are willing to share information if it makes these processes easier,” de Juniac remarked.

The airline association wants to collaborate with governments to review technologies, and address risks, without disrupting operations.

“Governments and the industry are partners in aviation security. Airlines have operational know-how. Governments have the financial and intelligence resources. We have to put them together effectively in a continuous dialogue focused on improving security.”

“We cannot predict the next security challenge. But some things we do know for sure. Our common defense is stronger when governments and industry work together. And if we can avoid long-term extraterritorial measures, focus on global standards, share information and develop technology efficiently, our hand is strengthened even further,” stated de Juniac.

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