Airlines trade group wary of quick changes

GOVERNMENTS should not rush to implement new security measures after bombs were found on UPS planes last week, says the head of the International Air Transport Association (Iata), the airlines trade group.

Speaking at a security conference in Frankfurt, Iata’s head Giovanni Bisignani said: “Effective solutions are not developed unilaterally or in haste.”

He insisted that airline security has improved dramatically in recent years.

“We are much more secure than in 2001, but there is room for improvement,” he added. “The events in Yemen have put cargo security at the top of our agenda.”

Another Iata spokesman cautioned against “knee-jerk reactions” to the plot which could harm the air industry. Iata said improvements were needed, but that any response had to be measured.

Among the recommendations that Iata makes for improving cargo security are: shifting the focus for airline security from finding bombs to intelligence-gathering; using more electronic screening for freight to make monitoring easier; and finding new “government-certified technology” to screen items of cargo.

“There is some promising technology but it is taking far too long to move from the laboratory to the airport,” said Bisignani.

The man who heads up America’s Transportation Security Administration, John Pistole, echoed Bisignani’s sentiments in comments he made at the security conference and suggested a calm approach. “Security cannot bring business to a standstill,” he said. “We must strike that balance. The US government understands this well.”

Airlines carried 26 million tonnes of freight in 2009 and that is set to increase rapidly over the next few years.