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Aussie airport queues to shorten but safety issues remain

August 4, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Enhanced security at Australia’s airports, which has seen domestic travellers having to turn up two hours before flights and international travellers three hours, is about to revert to normal levels.

Normal recommended levels are an hour less in each case.

“The threat to aviation will be restored to the level it was a week ago,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters yesterday. Security will be “modified in a way that will cause less delays to the travelling public”.

Heightened security has led to delays at airports around Australia. A traveller making a short day-trip for a business meeting – Melbourne to Canberra or Sydney to Brisbane, for instance – has faced spending at least four hours at domestic airports, while the actual flight may last only an hour or so.

Queue comment on Twitter

Turnbull said yesterday enhanced airport security measures would continue, some obvious to travellers, some not.

The nationwide security alert began last weekend after counter-terrorism squads launched armed raids on four Sydney properties over an alleged “Islamic-inspired” plot to bring down an aircraft – reportedly by using poison gas.

Sydney’s Daily Telegraph reported yesterday that the plan involved getting an unwitting passenger to carry a bomb disguised inside a kitchen meat grinder aboard an Etihad flight to Abu Dhabi.

Two men are reportedly due to face court on terrorism charges today.

MEANWHILE, airline pilots are seriously concerned about what they see as a potentially dangerous flaw in the security screening of ground and air staff.

The Australian Airline Pilots Association wants to know why baggage handlers, cleaners and catering staff can access aircraft with less security than pilots.

“It’s our belief that for a long time that has been a gap in the aviation security system – that people that do have access to the aircraft should have the same level of screening as people that come through the terminal,” Australian Airline Pilots Association president Murray Butts told Sky News Australia.

The Australian Airline Pilots’ Association (AusALPA), consists of the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) and the Australian Federation of Air Pilots (AFAP). It represents more than 5000 professional pilots in Australia on safety and technical matters.

The high turnover rate of staff at airports is in itself creating a major security risk, according to the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU).

The turnover problem means large numbers of staff do not have full security clearance to operate at airports and do not have the experience or training to spot potential terror threats, the TWU warned.

“On any given day there are many hundreds of people working at our airports with no ASIO or Federal Police security checks,” TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon said. “This includes people doing regular work airside from maintenance to ground crew and, most concerning, security personnel.” He blamed high turnover on low pay and poor work conditions.

The final word can go to AgentGerko, a frequent correspondent to Global Travel Media with a sound knowledge of travel agency and airline matters. He raised an important issue in this recent comment: 

The domestic carriers are partly to blame for this. There was a rule requiring all passengers to carry photo ID to ensure that the Bill Jones who checked in was actually Bill Jones, but then over the recent years introduced many alternate ways to check in that totally obliterated that requirement. As it stands today, I could book a flight and check in online using any name I pleased and nobody would be the wiser. I could sell my ticket to a neighbour or friend and they could travel as me without hindrance. So much for security. Two hours early arrival is dreadful but if it makes my aircraft safer then I’ll accept it. But first, how about making sure the passenger on the plane matches the passenger on the ticket? 

Written by Peter Needham

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