Backlog chaos at London airports has raised protests from the travel industry that new security rules do not add up. Plugging the gaps between anti-terrorist policy and practice is a costly, elusive goal. Since September 11, 2001, stricter controls have been based on the methods used by terrorists, leading to a ban on anything pointy or with a cutting edge and routine scrutiny of footware. With the British government now having forbidden bottles of any kind from hand luggage, citing their potential to contain explosive liquids, critics are calling for more consistency.
Intensive passenger-by-passenger controls and other measures imposed on companies are a heavy financial burden. One of the complaints comes from the head of Ryanair, Michael O’Leary. He said: “I would love to have an explanation from the minister of transport why is this bag safe to board an aircraft, but the slightly normal, wheel bag that most passengers would be aware of is not safe. This is crazy. This is the “keystone cops” of the aviation security that are allowing the terrorist to disrupt the air transport industry in the UK.”
Estimates of the cost impact on UK air carriers caused by the latest counter-terrorism difficulties run between some 70 and 150 million euros. The companies are insisting on a reality check. The industry accepts security comes first but says 4,000 extra people would have to be hired to apply all the measures being proposed.
Ian Aisles chairs the Federation of Tour Operators. He said: “The government is one of the players here. Clearly each of the airports is run by different commercial companies, but the government sets the security policy when he drives that, and I guess what we are looking for is the government as one of the stakeholders to really come in to this public inquiry, first to learn from things and then to implement a policy going forward.”
Special restrictions on flights leaving Britain have not been mimicked in other EU countries, nor in other areas of transport. This has heightened concerns about security along with resentment that it will distort competition.