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British Airways Chief: US Airport Security Should Change


Travelers at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York go through security screening, 22 Oct 2010

Travelers at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York go through security screening, 22 Oct 2010

The chairman of British Airways says the United States is making excessive demands about screening airline passengers, including insisting on measures it does not require on U.S. domestic flights.

The BA chairman Martin Broughton complained specifically about separate checks for laptop computers and forcing people to take off their shoes, saying such measures are "completely redundant" and should be scrapped.

Aviation analyst Chris Yates agrees.

"There are an awful lot of requirements imposed by the Department for Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration in the States that really quite frankly we do not need," said Yates.

Retired admiral Alan West was Britain's security minister under the last government. He says, "I do not think always these judgments are made specifically on intelligence, and I think there are agreements between for example European nations - there are American standards, there are national standards. I think all of those need to be much more coordinated."

West says that means implementing new technologies and streamlining the security process.

"You have to have a balance and I think we have probably gone slightly the wrong way in the balance at airports. I think it needs to be rationalized to get an overall agreement from everybody. I think we need to put a lot of effort into equipment that can do a lot of these things in one sweep, and I think we have started doing that, but it is not being fully implemented," he said.

West says mixing up security tactics is a good strategy.

"One day there might be lots of dogs there, then there might not be dogs around for 10 days, then there might be dogs for seven days running, you might suddenly make everyone go through on one flight and every single person has to take their shoes off," West said. "You do random things like that and that becomes very difficult for anyone to work out when they can do something."

Aviation analyst Yates agrees, but believes some measures should be dropped.

"Randomness is what makes you safe, but equally there are some measures there that make the whole process more complicated and do not need to be there," Yates said. "Frankly the regulation requiring shoes to be taken off is more of a hindrance than it is a benefit to the whole of the screening process at checkpoints."

Britain's transport secretary recently announced the British government plans to review airport security measures.

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