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Turning challenges into opportunities

Improving the efficiency of existing security standards will require industry coordination

Despite the extremely challenging economic environment, safety and security remain top of the airline agenda. However, amid the global recession all players in the aviation value chain are re-evaluating their businesses. Security is part of this process and cannot be overlooked.

Continuing to improve security and increase efficiency are priorities that need to be achieved simultaneously. “We know we can be more efficient,” says Guenther Matschnigg, IATA’s Senior Vice President, Safety, Operations and Infrastructure. “We can make security more cost-effective and improve the results. In the current climate, we cannot ignore that potential.”

One of IATA’s goals is to ensure security requirements are mutually accepted by states. It is also working towards measures based on threat assessment and specific operational environments. These objectives will not only improve the efficiency of security processes, but minimize the negative impact on passenger and cargo flows.

Several elements are integral to success. Security management systems (SeMS), for example, will play an essential role in maximizing efficiency by introducing a risk-based approach. SeMS is a performance-based approach to aviation security. Based on threat assessment, the most efficient and cost-effective security measures and procedures are implemented within the operational environment. It ensures that security is managed as an integral part of an organization’s overall business processes, leading to enhanced performance and increased cost effectiveness.

On a practical level this involves working with three industry stakeholders: airlines, airports and governments. Airlines are in fact the easiest part of the jigsaw, according to Matschnigg. “Security management systems are there as part of the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) requirements, so airlines are very familiar with the concept,” he says.
Nevertheless, IATA is leaving no stone unturned in its overall approach to the subject and has been offering security management courses around the world. More are planned for the fourth quarter 2009 and in 2010, and there are even some tailored to regulators.

Meanwhile, threat levels for airports obviously vary. The London or New York gateways cannot be bracketed with a regional facility. By using a Security management system, efficient measures and appropriate responses for the threat environment can be implemented. 

Governments may prove a greater challenge. “They need to understand the concept,” says Matschnigg. “We took a business approach to safety and the idea was well received. Simply, this means the idea of safety is inherent in every business process. It is gaining greater acceptance every day and has become the ICAO recommended process.”

“But governments are naturally more intimately involved with security,” he adds. IATA argues that security is ultimately a government responsibility and although some government agencies, such as Transport Canada, are fully supportive of SeMS, Matschnigg concedes critical mass is some way off: “Safety in aviation is a clear-cut issue with well-defined industry and government cooperation with one goal, to make flying safe. But we are just one of many players involved in national security. It is a very different way of working with very different groups of people.”

It’s good to talk

Managing the relationships with these stakeholders—both governments and airports—is another element in IATA’s strategy. Airlines don’t own the security process, they are only part of it. As such, integrating plans with industry partners is vital to making security more efficient. “Talking with governments about the regulatory framework is a case in point,” Matschnigg notes. “Post 9/11 there was a multitude of individual measures, which have been locked into law and are very difficult to change.”

The problem is that these measures are not harmonized on a global scale. The task ahead is to get governments to understand the need for integration. An IATA team dedicated to the cause is constantly in negotiation with states throughout the world. The team has already saved the industry $150 million by convincing governments to take a more holistic view, for example when introducing new requirements for the exchange of passenger data, or new measures that duplicate existing procedures.

Close to $12 billion has been saved by stalling the US Exit Plan. After lobbying, Congress has asked the Department of Homeland Security to pilot the scheme—which involves collecting biometric data from passengers on departure—without involving airlines. 

The most obvious area for harmonization between governments is new technology. IATA’s Fast Travel Program offers more self-service options to passengers at the airport in four areas —checking in baggage, ID checks, boarding and registering lost bags. IATA is now looking at expanding that approach to include security, customs and immigration—simplifying the overall passenger experience.

By learning from the Fast Travel team, Matschnigg believes security best practices can be developed in “toolbox” fashion, so individual airports can simply choose the most appropriate “tools” for their needs, each harmonized with the overall concept.

Technology comes at a cost, of course, but the aim is to make it pay for itself in a relatively short space of time. “Technology is one of the most important drivers concerning security controls,” agrees Peter Andres, Vice President, Corporate Security at Lufthansa. “On the other hand, you also need to have a close look at processes in a more general way. In the past, new security measures have just been put on top of existing controls. That doesn’t mean they don’t make sense in themselves but security control as a whole has got more complex and inconvenient for passengers.

“The approach should be to find an optimized balance in terms of necessary and high-standard security checks, seamless passenger processes and innovative technologies”.

One-stop security

One-stop security is another key project in IATA’s strategy. The idea—which simply asks that governments recognize each other’s security measures so that a connecting passenger only has to undergo one check at the airport of origin— actually started over a decade ago in Europe, but was stopped in its tracks by 9/11.

Progress is being made again in Europe, with France adopting the concept in May 2009, but the real challenge is trans-Atlantic flights. IATA estimates that 13 million passengers arrive from the US and connect in Europe (and vice versa) each year. Eliminating the need for a passenger embarking in New York to undergo a second check at Frankfurt before getting on a connecting flight could have an enormous, positive effect on a market crucial to the revenue of a number of airlines.

Andres says Lufthansa is very interested in the concept and harmonization in general. “The first step must be to trust one another and accept each other’s standards when they are on a comparable, high level,” he says. “This is not only valid for single measures but for security controls as a whole.”
Progress on one-stop security will have to form part of a new EU-US recognition agreement and there are hopes for an announcement later this year.

Secure Freight

Secure Freight is a vision for a totally secure supply chain. Freight would be secured “upstream” and then protected throughout its journey. The challenge is to ensure the project is globally relevant so that it can be implemented in countries where vulnerabilities remain, but is also recognised by those who have mature, effective programs in place.

“We need to do this to arrest the growth of piecemeal regulation, which not only adds cost and complexity but also slows delivery times—air freight’s crucial competitive advantage,” says John Edwards, IATA’s Head of Cargo Security. “It is also necessary because the industry needs a consistent, low-tech, low-cost solution to securing air cargo away from the airport environment. Leaving a security check to the last point puts a tremendous strain on process and infrastructure.”

Like other elements in the security strategy, Secure Freight intends to simplify requirements and build on best practice. Cargo must be secured at its origin, made tamper-evident and then protected throughout its journey. Each operator will need to implement and maintain standards and confirm secure receipt on handover to the next operator. An electronic security message will also accompany each consignment. Shipments can then be handled as many times as necessary without need for re-screening—so long as the consignment’s integrity is maintained.

Aside from improving security levels, early figures show Secure Freight could save the cargo industry in the region of $400 million annually by streamlining security processes and removing redundant checks.
IATA is forming a Secure Freight Stakeholder Advisory Group to help the project move forward.

This group will be invited to provide feedback on development of the Standards Manual and Standard Operating Procedures. The first working drafts will be ready by the end of year for the launch of the first pilot operations in January 2010. This will take place in Malaysia, where IATA has already secured the support of the Department of Civil Aviation, the national airport authority and airline, a forwarder and a shipper. By April 2010 the plan is to select further pilot locations, which will be instigated later in the year.

Importantly, the program is based on existing recognized program requirements and best practices wherever possible, and the idea gained significant endorsement earlier this year at the annual ICAO Aviation Security Panel meeting. Supporters included the US, UK, Mexico, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, India, Japan, Singapore, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia and China, plus ACI.

“I believe Secure Freight will make an important contribution to securing the global air cargo network, and underpin IATA’s reputation for industry leadership and standard setting,” says Paul Arnold, UPS. “By eliminating duplication of efforts and standardizing the entire process we can reduce staffing in certain areas, equipment, paperwork, and administration of the entire process. All of this will reduce overall cost.”

The various elements of IATA’s security strategy combine to provide a high-quality service that removes redundant and costly measures. Aviation is changing and security must change with it.”

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