Airport security is a high priority

2015-07-14 06:00

THE incident of two stowaways hidden in the undercarriage of an aircraft that took off from Johannesburg indicates that airport security needs urgent upgrading.

One fell to his death near Heathrow while the other miraculously survived the ordeal but is in a critical condition in hospital. Investigators are trying to establish how he managed to survive speeds of 12 000 km per hour, which would result in a depleted oxygen supply, plus temperatures of minus 55° to minus 60° Celsius. Many similar incidents have been reported, pointing to a dangerous breach of security.

Such lapses in security create uncertainty and trepidation in passengers. The Airports Company of South Africa (Acsa), which is in charge of major airports in SA, has to re-evaluate the security measures to make sure they cannot be breached. There have been weapons passing through our airports. An amount of R100 million was stolen from O.R. Tambo International Airport. In 2009, 15 SAA crew members were arrested at Heathrow after cocaine was found in one of the crews’ hand luggage. Two journalists from the Star newspaper entered into a high-security area without being asked to show any identification. The transgressions are many. The perception may be created that SAA is ignoring security issues or it does not have the personnel to deal with them.

With terrorist attacks a reality, such glitches in security could easily jeopardise the lives of passengers. The issue of security has to be given high-priority status.

If security measures are not upgraded immediately, SAA could find itself deeper in the red and looking towards the government for even bigger bail-outs at the taxpayer’s expense.

VIJAY SURUJPAL

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