Giving in to “hysteria” on aviation security is “precisely the outcome that the terrorists seek” one of Australia’s main regional airlines has said, as it rejects moves towards greater security.
The Federal Government has ordered a review of security amid concern that there is no screening of regional airport passengers on planes weighing less than 20 tonnes.
The move comes in the wake of an alleged plot to blow up a plane by using a bomb hidden in a meat grinder.
But airline Regional Express (REX), which operates in 45 locations where screening is not required, has rejected any moves towards greater security.
“Giving in to hysteria is precisely the outcome that the terrorists seek,” a spokesperson said.
“This would allow them to succeed in their objective of severely disrupting daily life without needing to carry out a single attack.
“Australia and Australians know better than to fall for their trap.”
REX is concerned that screening all its planes would be prohibitively expensive — to the extent that most regional centres would be left without an air service.
“The annual operating cost associated with the provision of screening is about $750,000 per annum at each location, which means that regional air travellers would have to absorb an additional $34 million per annum in costs,” a Rex spokesperson said.
“The REX Group’s latest full-year results … only showed a $4 million operational profit.
“It would be easy to see what would happen if screening were made mandatory.”
Regional Express has an extensive network across the much of the country. (Supplied: Regional Express)
REX’s concerns won’t be ignored, Government says
Federal Transport Minister Darren Chester said the Government did not want to make regional airline travel unviable by reviewing safety protocols.
“We need to make sure we don’t have regional aviation regulated to a point that it becomes unviable for the providers of the service, or those seeking to use the service,” he said.
“We need to work with industry. We need to work with local council.”
Mr Chester also said the planned review of regional airport security was not in response to any specific threat, but simply precautionary.
The peak body for regional aviation in Australia has raised similar concerns to REX.
The Regional Aviation Association of Australia said there needed to be a “balanced and measured” approach to security which ensured the “viability and sustainability” of regional services.
Why screen smaller planes but not buses?
REX added that smaller regional planes carry fewer passengers than most buses and it would be senseless to enforce screening on small planes but leave buses alone.
REX says the price of implementing screening on all its flights is prohibitive. (Graham Tidy: Reuters)
“This example can easily be extended to trains, cinemas, shopping malls, restaurants, and the list goes on,” the REX spokesperson said.
“Terrorists will and do strike soft targets too as we have seen in the truck attacks in Nice and in London, and the attack on a Sydney cafe.”
The airlines also believes the socio-economic impact of the loss of air services would be devastating.
“Those needing to travel for essential medical, education and business reasons would be forced to drive,” the spokesperson said.
“The millions of extra road users would undoubtedly add to the 1,200 road fatalities recorded each year in Australia.”