Australia’s Federal Government is considering a plan to bring domestic airport security standards to the level of international ones, a move that is being described as long overdue and “absolutely necessary”.
Should these changes be implemented, passengers would have their identification verified when receiving boarding passes, liquid restrictions would apply and full body scans would be conducted.
Aviation security expert Roger Henning described the state of aviation security at domestic, regional and rural airports as having a “really serious gap.”
“[It’s] absolutely necessary, no question about that”, Henning said.
Mike Carmody, the former Head of Security for the Federal Airports Corporation at Sydney Airport, chimed in on the subject and said that domestic security was both old-fashioned and weak.
“If the events over the last week have taught us something, it is that we need to wake up, from an aviation security point of view”, he said. “We need to ensure that the security standards we impose at our international ports are applied rigorously at our domestic and regional ports.”
Australian police recently uncovered a terrorist plot to take down a passenger aircraft with the use of an improvised device that was made out of a meat grinder.
Carmody believes that it was “about time” airlines understand who was flying.
“Would you believe that today, Virgin and Qantas cannot tell you and cannot guarantee who is flying on their domestic aircraft?” Carmody quipped. “At no time from the point of sale of that ticket to the individual boarding the aircraft is the ID of that passenger ever verified against that ticket.”
Carmody went on to say that it was important be managed by Australian Border Protection and not contractors.
“We need to ensure the personnel applying the security measures are highly trained and motivated”, he said. “The days of using private security firms, lowly paid workers behind our security checkpoints are well and truly over.”
The Flight Attendants’ Association of Australia (FAAA) conceded that identification verification should be applied, but argued that body scanning would be too much.
“Measures such as full body scanning would be over the top domestically. I think it will slow the process down”, said National Secretary Andrew Staniforth. “It will become very frustrating for passengers to travel to and from work and to meet their commitments across the country.”
The FAAA is also lobbying for more personnel to bolster their check-in staff, flight attendants, security screening staff and ground staff.
“As someone who has been in the aviation industry for over 30 years, one of the main things we were taught is that vigilance is our number one protection against anybody meaning us harm”, Staniforth said. “If people are under pressure due to a lack of people resources, they lose the ability to be observant.”
Questions have been raised as to who would shoulder the cost of these increased security measures but Carmody claimed that passengers would be amenable to paying a little bit more to see these through.
“If we spread that increase across the number of passengers flying each day it is a minimal increase to the passenger ticket profiling”, he said. “I’m certainly prepared to put my hand in my pocket to minimize that risk.”
But Australian Airline Pilots’ Association President Murray Butt contends that the need to balance security with cost and efficiency is ever present.
“We could make it 100% foolproof and it might take us all day to get through the screening process and we’d be paying tenfold for our ticket price”, he said.