New York - The International Air Transport Association (IATA) called upon governments to work with industry to develop a pragmatic approach to keeping aviation secure by balancing risk and regulation.

“We have a big responsibility—keeping more than 3 billion air travelers, nearly 50 million tonnes of freight and the world’s economies securely connected by air. The foundation for achieving these is working together to strike the right balance on risk and regulation. If we don’t find the right balance soon we will lose the goodwill of our passengers and shippers, clog our airports, slow world trade, and bring down the level of security that we have worked so hard to build-up. We cannot accept 100% risk. And any regulation that completely eliminated risk would shut the industry down—an equally unacceptable solution. A pragmatic approach is needed,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO at the AVSEC World aviation security conference in Brooklyn, New York.

In line with its proposed pragmatic way forward, IATA issued a call to transition aviation security from a one-size-fits-all proscriptive approach to a risk-based, results-driven model.

“We must put desired results at the center of our efforts. If we want to keep bombs off of airplanes, it does not matter whether we use machines, dogs, intelligence or any combination thereof. We must understand that bureaucracy and rules do not equate to effective security. And we must recognize that 99.9999% (if not more) of passengers and freight pose no threat to aviation. So we need to make better use of the information that is available to assess the risk of the people, objects or situations that can pose threats,” said Tyler.

This year, more than 3 billion passengers will travel by air, almost double the number that flew in 2001. And all predictions indicate a further doubling by 2030, if not sooner. “Security resources are being stretched. Travelers are often unhappy with the experience. And security checkpoint productivity has declined. Even the Transportation Security Administration admits it is concerned that that we are running out of space to accommodate the growing footprint of the security areas at airports. We must act urgently. If we don’t evolve, the system will grind to a halt under its own weight,” said Tyler.

Checkpoint of the Future

The industry is proactively working with governments to develop solutions. Checkpoint of the Future (CoF) project is an example of a risk-based security system that aims to evolve airport passenger security screening to a more sustainable, efficient and effective process that takes advantage of new technologies. CoF has three primary goals:

  • Strengthening security by focusing resources based on risk levels, increasing unpredictability, making better use of existing technologies, and introducing new technologies with advanced capabilities as they become available.
  • Increasing operational efficiency by raising throughput rates, optimizing asset utilization, reducing the cost per passenger, and maximizing space and staff resources
  • Improving the passenger experience by shrinking queues, reducing waiting times and replacing intrusive and time consuming screening with more pleasant technology solutions. Security should be hassle-free.

Integral to the CoF is the concept of differentiation, based on data, to ensure resources are deployed where they will have the biggest impact on reducing risk. Advance Passenger Information (API) and Passenger Name Record (PNR) information, which governments already have access to for purposes of border control, would be used to provide automated guidance for decisions on the level of screening each passenger receives. “We are not advocating for profiling based on religion or ethnicity. And we are not proposing infringements on privacy. But we can use existing information more effectively,” said Tyler.

The CoF program has moved from the standard setting phase into implementation. The CoF Roadmap and Concept definition were completed in 2012. Successful trials of some components were completed in Geneva, London Heathrow and Amsterdam. A program of ten new trials is planned for this year in preparation for the first end-to-end version being implemented in 2014. A more advanced version of the CoF will appear in 2017, with the fully realized CoF arriving around 2020. This will allow passengers to walk through the screening lane without having to remove layers of clothing or separate laptops and liquids from hand luggage.


Tyler also noted three critical concerns:

Standardization of API requirements: “We spent a decade developing global standards for information such as API and PNR with state institutions such as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the World Customs Organization. Now many governments are deviating from the standards—adding bureaucracy and cost to processes,” said Tyler. Mexico, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, India, and Brazil were noted as being among the countries where IATA is working with the government to align advance passenger information requirements with global standards.

Outcome based approach: “Too often the focus is on defining process rather than the results. At the risk of over-simplification if we can agree to a global standard outcome—no bombs on planes for example—then all stakeholders could focus their efforts on achieving the most efficient solution for a given situation and environment,” said Tyler. IATA is encouraging governments to focus their efforts on clearly defining required outcomes.

Costs: Airlines spend an estimated $8.4 billion on security. Passengers and other parts of the value chain also faced costs and charges. Some governments are now levying charges on the airline to process data that they request. Canada, for example, requires airlines to invest in their systems to link to the government IT infrastructure. It then charges airlines about C$25,000 for the initial connection and C$5,000 annually to maintain it. “My message to governments is clear. If you can’t afford to process the information you shouldn’t be asking for it,” said Tyler.

Read Tony Tyler's full speech

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