Aviation experts say the measures passengers expect when flying internationally need to be matched at a domestic level. (ABC News: Ewan Gilbert)
Bringing airport security standards at Australia’s domestic terminals in line with those at international terminals is long overdue and “absolutely necessary”, aviation security experts say.
This would mean passengers have their identification checked when receiving boarding passes, liquid restrictions would apply and full body scans would be conducted.
Fairfax has reported that a proposal to update domestic airport security would go before a full Cabinet in the coming weeks.
Aviation security expert Roger Henning said there was a “really serious gap” in aviation security not just at domestic terminals, but also regional and rural airports.
“[It’s] absolutely necessary, no question about that,” he said.
Mike Carmody, the former chief of security for the Federal Airports Corporation at Sydney Airport, said domestic security was outdated and insubstantial.
“If the events over the last week have taught us something, it is that we need to wake up, from an aviation security point of view,” he said.
“We need to ensure that the security standards we impose at our international ports are applied rigorously at our domestic and regional ports.”
Police this week made arrests after uncovering a plot to take down a passenger plane using an improvised explosive device made out of a meat grinder.
Mr Carmody said “it’s about time” airlines understand who is flying.
“Would you believe that today, Virgin and Qantas cannot tell you and cannot guarantee who is flying on their domestic aircraft?” he said.
“At no time from the point of sale of that ticket to the individual boarding the aircraft is the ID of that passenger ever verified against that ticket.”
Mr Carmody said it is also vital that domestic security is managed by Australian Border Protection and not contractors.
“We need to ensure the personnel applying the security measures are highly trained and motivated,” he said.
“The days of using private security firms, lowly paid workers behind our security checkpoints are well and truly over.”
Body scanning ‘over the top, but more staff needed’
The Flight Attendants’ Association of Australia (FAAA) agrees identification verification should be implemented, but believes body scanning would be excessive.
“Measures such as full body scanning would be over the top domestically. I think it will slow the process down,” national secretary Mr Staniforth said.
“It will become very frustrating for passengers to travel to and from work and to meet their commitments across the country.”
The FAAA is also pushing for an increase in personnel including check in staff, flight attendants, security screening staff and ground staff.
“As someone who has been in the aviation industry for over 30 years, one of the main things we were taught is that vigilance is our number one protection against anybody meaning us harm,” Mr Staniforth said.
“If people are under pressure due to a lack of people resources, they lose the ability to be observant.”
Customers would wear cost
There are concerns the cost of these increased security measures would be passed onto passengers, but Mr Carmody said he believes most would be willing to pay slightly more.
“If we spread that increase across the number of passengers flying each day it is a minimal increase to the passenger ticket profiling,” he said.
“I’m certainly prepared to put my hand in my pocket to minimise that risk.”
But Australian Airline Pilots’ Association president Captain Murray Butt said there is always the need to balance security with cost and efficiency.
“We could make it 100 per cent foolproof and it might take us all day to get through the screening process and we’d be paying tenfold for our ticket price,” he said.
Bridget said ID checking should be introduced but she liked the fact security at a domestic level was less intense. (ABC News: Nour Haydar)
Bridget, who is travelling in Australia from the US, told the ABC that security in the States was “a little much”.
“You are literally patted down — every part of your body — it’s just unnecessary,” she said.
“I think that Australia has it right.
“I think you should definitely check for your actual ID when you walk through … but I think it’s a good amount of security here.”
Other travellers at Sydney Airport were in favour of the move.
“Security is everything to me as a mum so any extra security — if you haven’t done anything wrong — doesn’t really matter,” Christie said.
“You pay that little bit extra for safety I guess, so I’m more than happy to pay.”
Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester told the ABC aviation security settings are constantly monitored and evaluated by experts who provide advice to the Government.