Increased airline security adds to IT bill


The IATA calls for governments to rethink airline security.International Air Transport Association (IATA) director-general and CEO Giovanni Bisignani says airline and airport security is an “uncoordinated mess” that has cost more than $30 billion, much of it accruing to the airline industry`s IT bill.

The US government has imposed numerous restrictions on the global travel industry since the 11 September 2001 suicide airliner attacks on New York and Washington DC and, in many instances, made travellers and the broader travel industry pay in time and money for notional security.

“We are more secure than in 2001, but at what cost? Since 2001, airlines and their customers paid at least $30 billion in security,” Bisignani said at the Airline IT Society`s annual IT summit, in Belgium. “We get more frustration than value. Why? Because fear drives decisions, the infrastructure cannot cope, governments are not cooperating and nobody is taking leadership.”

He says passengers suffer a maze of duplication, bureaucracy and hassle; and snaking, slow-moving queues at airport security checkpoints have undone all the advantages of self-service, effectively moving the wait from the check-in counter to the checkpoint.

Bisignani says the trouble does not end there. Airlines suffer constant demands for reprogramming to deliver the same advanced passenger information (API), in other words the passenger manifest, data in different formats to government agencies often within the same department, the US Department of Homeland Security being the prime example.

“It costs $50 000 for each data element changed in an API message. In total, API costs the industry over $100 million every year,” Bisignani charges.

And it is about to get worse. The US now wants airlines to collect personal data from passengers leaving the US and it wants airlines – including SAA – to do so at their own cost. “The irresponsible US exit proposals will outsource more data collection to airlines,” said Bisignani.

“This time it`s fingerprints, and the potential cost is in the billions. We are aligned with governments in wanting an even more secure industry. But… it`s time to say BASTA! We need some common sense. The IATA-led Simplifying Passenger Travel project is a solution to make security effective, efficient and convenient. The technologies are not science fiction. Millimetre wave, backscatter and biometrics are available today. Already many governments issue biometric passports. Now they need to start using them!”

The IATA chief said the organisation is serious about security and wants to send a clear message to governments “to focus on risk management, use available technology effectively, take better advantage of intelligence, harmonise global standards and take responsibility for the bill.”

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