Nov 03 2007

Has airport security improved?

Published by under Security

As a frequent flyer within Europe one takes notice of the increased and changed security activities due to the unprecedented events of 11 September 2001. Although there has been an increase in the level of security at many airports, the question is still if all airports have made the proper changes.

Let’s take Sweden’s largest airport, Arlanda, Stockholm, as an example and compare it with for example Heathrow Airport, London, UK. The fist thing that one notice at Heathrow is that you are informed that it can take up to 30 minutes to pass through the security controls. At Arlanda the LFV Group Swedish Airports and Air Navigation Services has in their contract with G4S (former Falck Security) stated that the maximum time to pass through the security area should be 5 minutes.

I have often passed through Heathrow airport with my notebook during the last 10 years and I have been numerous times been asked to turn on the notebook so that the security personnel could verify that it’s working system I’m carrying around and not a dummy. At Arlanda the only ask you to open up the notebook so that they can check that there is a keyboard (or what ever they’re looking for), but nothing about turning on the system to see if it actually works. Actually I’ve never been asked to turn on the notebook at a Swedish airport at all.

Shoes and belts that usually have some kind of metal and of course usually trigger the metal detectors have to be removed and x-rayed at Heathrow. At Arlanda you might be asked to unbuckle the belt to check that you’re not hiding anything, but that is more an exception than a rule.

During 2005 there were a number of incidents at Arlanda where both knifes and bomb bags, IED (Improvised Explosive Device), where missed out in the security controls; controls made by LFV Group. Both LFV Group and G4S got loads of unwanted media cover due to that both organisations was proven not to take the security activities seriously enough. An anonymous employee with G4S Security also went out in the Swedish press and informed that they during one day made 20 random securities check of hand luggage but in their internal reports wrote that performed 130 security checks just to fulfil the contract with LFV Group. Other anonymous G4S employees has reported that they have been informed an hour before when security checks would be performed by LFV Group.

Either has LFV Group and G4S not learned anything from earlier negative media coverage or it’s just that they have tighten up the information that could leak out to the media really hard. Since when travelling via any of the Swedish airports the security checks sometimes feels a bit random. So far Sweden haven’t had any major incidents. But, there is clearly a need for improvements at the Swedish airports.

Kim Haverblad

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