Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Aviation security call unnecessary

I'm hardly surprised at the report in the Dominion Post of a recommendation to introduce security screening of all domestic passenger flights. The Police and Aviation Security Service have strong vested interests in expanding any security operation, even regardless of the miniscule risk.

The report says there is a "very low threat from terrorists, moderate risk from acutely disaffected people drunks, those suffering mental disorder or irrational grudges".

Yes seriously, there is a bigger threat from car bombs in built up areas. However, I don't notice security screening of private cars in built up areas. A similar threat for bombing trains and buses, because there is NO screening of who people are before trains and buses are boarded.

The "moderate risk" from acutely disaffected people, drunks, those suffering mental disorder or irrational grudges, is something that might be picked up on check in, and frankly "moderate" is nonsense. According to the report 3.7 events per year happen.

The review is entirely because of the case of Asha Ali Abdille who took knives on a Beech 1900 light and attacked the crew. This sort of risk could be better addressed by having lockable doors on the plane, instead of subjecting hundreds of thousands of travellers every day to a search. Don't forget that all aircraft above 19 seats have at least one member of cabin crew. Better yet, sue this mad woman for the cost she imposed on all of the passengers and the airline.

You see, the sense of perspective about security and terrorism is completely skewed by the narrow minded attitude of those only working in aviation. Has the report analysed the cost in delay, frustration and additional costs for making purchases at destinations for toiletries etc, because of the ridiculous restrictions on hand luggage? What are the costs to business and travellers of this? Those in security care next to nothing about that, remember how they goose stepped everyone into only carrying toiletries in little containers. These are on the same flights that have hot beverages, glass, shoes, belts, rope and any other kind of potential weapon.

To take a clear example - it's remarkable how in the UK iIwas always screened for flying on 50 seat regional flights, but those boarding trains going at 125mph from Euston, Kings Cross or Paddington (or arriving there) faced absolutely nothing. Much like those catching the tube or buses, because they couldn't function with the restrictions. Instead, there is the use of CCTV, the physical presence of security staff and the use of intelligence to monitor security.

Of course you wont 100% ensure there are no incidents. After all, there was security at US domestic airports before 9/11. There could still be incidents, but it is like other human activities. Driving is risky, walking in the street it risky, life is risky. It's about time that the endless call to impose delays, inconvenience and cost upon the 99% of those who fly, in a country with next to no risk of terrorist attack, be resisted. International flights obviously must face security screening, given the profile and realistic danger of terrorism. Domestic jet flights are barely understandable, given the speeds and fuel carried, but provincial flights?

The truth is that you are at far more danger walking around the streets of Whakatane, Wanganui, Kaitaia and Timaru at night, than you are risking boarding a plane at the airports there with someone who will kill you.

The government should demand a full benefit/cost assessment, taking into account the costs imposed on travellers (not the NZ$4.66 but the delay, stress and related costs of not carrying what you need in hand luggage) - and compare it to other risks, and propose other options.

No comments: