Athens – The protection of civil aircraft, both on the ground and in the air, is a State's responsibility, and governments must shoulder the financial burden for air transport security, according to IATA Director General and CEO Giovanni Bisignani. Speaking in Athens at the annual AVSEC aviation security meeting, he said, "Security is an issue that goes far beyond aviation. It is a government responsibility, just like war and peace, and the costs must be assumed by society at large, not just by one industry."

Heightened security has been a priority for the air transport community ever since the tragic events of 9/11. These measures have carried a high price tag, with costs for extra security measures imposed on the industry reaching 5 billion dollars last year. In 2002, the US government provided relief in the form of a security tax exemption. That measure has now lapsed. In Europe, IATA is calling for a decision by the EU Council to oblige governments to assume responsibility for and funding of security measures.

"Terrorism is a threat against the State. The cost of aviation security must be borne by governments through general revenue and not from special taxes and user fees," said Bisignani. Aviation cannot be discriminated against when the state provides security free of charge for other modes of transport.

Bisignani highlighted urgent issues where States must work together to find rational solutions, including baggage re-screening for transit passengers, certification and testing of equipment, and harmonization of biometric identification for passengers. Only globally harmonized systems and standards can facilitate the smooth flow of passengers through security and border control formalities.

Air cargo security is another area where the industry supports the need for review. With IATA members carrying more than 40 million tons of cargo annually, cargo screening must look at alternative programs that will effectively address the cargo concerns without choking the business.

"Security has truly become a global obsession, and the air transport industry is doing more than its share to keep our industry secure," concluded Bisignani. "IATA will continue to provide concrete proof of our industry's security commitment by working with ICAO and individual governments in developing international security systems."