“Useless” security measures costing airlines millions: IATA

Ineffective aviation security procedures and regulatory duplication are costing the global airline industry untold millions of dollars in time of great financial stress.
That is the message coming out of this year’s AVSEC (Aviation Security) World 2009 conference being hosted in Cape Town by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
The conference that started this morning and lasts to Thursday is bringing together key security experts from governments, airlines and airports to set a global air transport security agenda that addresses current threats, identifies best practice and sets global standards that will help the industry survive the worst economic downturn in aviation history.
“Security is a top priority, alongside safety and environmental responsibility. Even with an expected $11 billion in losses this year, the priorities will not be compromised,” IATA CE Giovanni Bisignani said in comments prepared in anticipation of the event, regarded as the world’s most important annual gathering of aviation security policy makers and stakeholders.
“The financial crisis makes it more important than ever for regulators, security agencies, airports and airlines to work together and to work smarter to ensure that every dollar spent brings benefit,” he added.
Bisignani is not in Cape Town for the conference, but IATA Senior Vice President Safety Operations & Infrastructure Günther Matschnigg said “even small changes to regulations can have big cost (implications) for airlines.” He added that it could easily cost an airline $50 million to develop, test and impliment a new stricture.
“Airlines now spend $5.9 billion a year on security. Airlines and travellers cannot afford to pay for duplication because governments have not been able to harmonise (regulations across borders) or have mutually-agreed requirements,” avered Matschnigg.
“It is time to eliminate ineffective and costly duplication of aviation security procedures. They are costly for airlines and a hassle for our passengers but do nothing to improve security.
“Harmonisation, efficiency and cost effectiveness are the key to keeping aviation secure,” the IATA expert added.
Matschnigg said IATA and the Aviation Security Executive Group has developed a strategy based on five key criteria, which he says will deliver effective and appropriate security measures, without causing damage to an already fragile airline community.
He remonstrated that too much attention is paid to “improbable threats”.

Adopting a threat-based and risk managed approach using systems-based measures would be a first step. He noted IATA has developed a holistic Security Management System (SeMS) which could be integrated into national regulations to address this.

Secondly, in shaping the regulatory framework, he called on regulators to work with industry on outcome-based legislation, instead of “prescriptive regulation.” He also said there was a need for authorities to collaborate with each other as well as the industry.

Thirdly, airlines and regulators “must manage their relationship to share their perspectives, knowledge and experience of operational impact to the development and evolution of regulations,” Matschnigg said. “This includes regulators exercising caution before introducing even small regulatory or procedural changes which cost millions of dollars for airlines to test and implement,” he added, citing the $50 million example.

Fourthly, Matschnigg said innovation and technology could support continual security improvements while optimising proccesses for crew, passengers and cargo.

Lastly, measures adopted have to be judged in terms of “added value, proportionality, common sense and cost-effectiveness.”

This, he said, will foster decision making based on data and sound threat analysis instead of fear and improbability.