Belfast Telegraph

Belfast International Airport spends £10m a year on security

By Claire McNeilly

Belfast International Airport is spending almost £10m a year on aviation security as concerns grow that the levels of checks faced by passengers are excessive.

The security bill is over three times the amount being spent 10 years ago - and it comes at a time when the airline industry's global body is claiming billions are being wasted on unnecessary security checks for travellers.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has warned that the main UK airports, such as Belfast International, are struggling to cope with mounting layers of safety regulations that are costing some £4.6bn a year to implement.

They have called for the implementation of an airport screening regime that gives preferential treatment to low risk passengers - a call backed by Belfast International, which says it welcomes attempts to streamline security.

A spokeswoman for Northern Ireland's largest airport said the huge increase in expenditure was due to the 9/11 attacks 10 years ago and the foiled liquid bomb plot at Heathrow in August 2006.

She said: "Aviation security and the protection of all passengers, staff and aircraft is of paramount importance. However, we do welcome any attempt to streamline the security process at airports."

IATA director general Tony Tyler said keeping up with aviation security was a crippling - and, in his view, unnecessary - expenditure. He wants the Government to pay for security instead of airports, airlines and passengers.

"We spend huge amount screening people who, quite frankly, do not need it," he said.

"We need to find a better way of doing it. We are putting our customers through an immensely complicated and, most of the time, unnecessary, hassle."

UK airports are backing a programme being developed by the US Transportation Security Administration where low-risk passengers could be given less stringent checks if they supply information, including frequent flyer details and travel records.

The British Airports Authority has also launched a trial of new bodyscanners that could remove the need for metal detectors and full body searches.

The current level of security is good news for manufacturers of the scanning equipment. The Smiths Group saw its annual revenue from its detection gear business rise after 9/11 from about £130m to £574m last year.

Background

Belfast International Airport (BIA) is the UK's 13th busiest airport and handled around four million passengers in 2010.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has warned that it, along with other busy UK airports, is struggling with mounting layers of safety regulations that are now costing the industry some £4.6bn a year to implement.

The huge increase in expenditure is due to both the 9/11 attacks 10 years ago and the foiled liquid bomb plot at London's Heathrow Airport in August 2006.

BIA is currently spending almost £10m a year on aviation security - more than three times its expenditure 10 years ago.

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