IATA warns Governments to remember lessons from devices ban

Include airlines in decision making when it comes to security was the message from the IATA chief at the organisation’s World Conference in Abu Dhabi.

IATA Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac called for governments to be mindful of the lessons learned from the electronics ban.

“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.”

The airline association recommends the establishing of global standards for security, which fit the needs of a 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.”

Better information sharing, de Juniac adds, would have helped avoid the disruptive effects of the Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs) ban imposed earlier this year on some routes to the US and UK for those governments.

The varied restrictions applied and different airlines selected led to confusion, and the short notice caused many airlines to scramble 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 packing large numbers of portable electronics devices in the hull of the aircraft.

Airlines voiced strong concern over this risk. This July, the FAA published a report in the form of an InFO (Information for Operators) document showing 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 called out governments for a lack of adequate and timely information sharing on those security risks revealed by intelligence efforts, specifically naming the tragedy of the missile attack on flight MH17 which 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.”

Tech can help

IATA touted the benefits of technology to improve the design and enforcement of security procedures. For example, the use of enhanced explosive trace detection (ETD) technology helped lift the ban on large PEDs in the aircraft cabin in the US.

IATA lent its support to new certification processes 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). De Juniac says:

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

IATA also said that information technology and biometrics should be applied “more intensely” to validate passenger information at airport checkpoints and to advance “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.”

The airline association wants to work hand 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 defence 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.”

Related reading:

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IATA chief: Find alternative to electronics ban now

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