4 threats to aviation security - Iata

Cape Town - There are four threats and five challenges to aviation security, according to a report by the International Air Transport Association (Iata).

The four threats are those from insiders; aviation cybersecurity; security on the ground; and conflict zones.

"Aviation remains a target. The threat from insiders is increasing and a real challenge. The perfect vetting system has yet to be invented," according to Nick Careen, senior vice president, airport, passenger, cargo and security at Iata.

"Airline systems are secure, but not without risk. We need nimble layers of protection, a security culture and advanced capabilities of detection. These must be powered by intelligence and information sharing."

Iata is working with various organisations, stakeholders and governments to promote a coherent approach.

Airport security

Careen emphasised that security on ground level is the full responsibility of individual governments.

"The threats to aviation are real and may demand quick action by countries. And it is challenging for airlines when governments at both ends of an international route have not coordinated their requirements," said Careen.

In the view of Iata, the most effective defence against potential terror attacks is government intelligence to stop terrorists before they reach an airport. In its view, shortening the queuing times at airports should be part of the solution. The organisation also feels risk in airport public areas can be mitigated by efficient processes.

Global aviation security plan

Iata welcomes the establishment of the first Global Aviation Security Plan (GASeP) by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). At the same time, governments are sovereign and there is no global security regulator. Therefore, if governments do not incorporate GASeP into their national plans, it will not be effective, in Iata's view.

"Differences in the capacity of governments to keep their citizens safe are clear. Focused efforts will be needed to foster cooperation and capacity-building to enable countries to meet their obligations," explained Careen.

5 security challenges

According to Iata, there are five challenges facing governments regarding aviation security. These are a lack of universal implementation of global standards; extraterritorial measures; information sharing; getting technology to market; and expanding and linking trusted traveller programmes.

"Our message to governments is that, although short-term unilateral and extraterritorial measures may be necessary, they cannot be long-term solutions," said Careen.

"Airlines should not be caught in the middle, picking up the pieces, bearing unplanned expenses for an indeterminate period, when governments cannot agree on measures needed for the security of their citizens."

In the view of Iata, information technology needs to be used more effectively in aviation security. Next generation screening technology, for instance, has the potential to significantly improve security.

When screening passengers, for instance, a risk-based solution is needed which speeds up the screening of low-risk travellers. Although there are successful programmes in place, more are needed, in Careen's view.


Iata's innovations for aviation security are risk based. More than 20 airports have, for instance, already implemented Iata's Smart Security system.

The aim of the system is to allow passengers to proceed through security checkpoints with minimal inconvenience.

Another key area of interest for Iata is risk-based differentiated screening of passengers and their belongings.

"The solutions are well-documented, but need a regulatory framework," said Careen.

Another Iata innovation is One Identity (One ID). Passenger data is collected, assessed and identity confirmed as early as possible in the process. It is subsequently shared, used and amended by all stakeholders across a journey from booking to destination.

According to Iata, the solution relies on a trusted, digital identity; an identity management platform; identity verification through biometric recognition; and a trust framework underpinning the collaboration between stakeholders.

A global passenger survey indicated that 64% of passengers would want to use such a single biometric identity token for all their travel transactions.

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