Moscow Bomb Mustn’t Prompt Lockdown, Airport Heads Say

London City Airport Chief Executive Officer Richard Gooding
London City Airport Chief Executive Officer Richard Gooding said, “People have got to continue living their lives, and in the end, you can’t remove the risk entirely.” Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

Airport arrival halls mustn’t be subjected to a security clampdown following the bomb blast that killed 35 at Russia’s busiest airport, executives at London City airport and industry group Airports Council International said.

Security forces need to rethink anti-terror measures to focus more on deterrence, less predictable checks and better use of intelligence rather than extend an already “burdensome” set of screening processes beyond air-side areas of terminals, ACI Europe Director General Olivier Jankovec said in an interview.

“You can really do things more efficiently with better use of intelligence rather than trying to turn the airport into a fortress,” Jankovec said. “We need a more efficient system where you’re not controlling every single person in the same way and treating every grandmother as if she was a terrorist.”

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has blamed security “anarchy” for the terrorist bombing in the arrivals hall of Moscow’s Domodedovo airport on Jan. 24, adding that “control of movement was partial at best,” with no screening of people meeting passengers. That’s also the case at airports worldwide, where security is concentrated beyond the check-in desks.

“We can’t keep adding more and more levels every time there is a new or different threat,” Jankovec said on Jan. 25 in London, adding that “the airport is just one opportunity to stop someone with malicious intent, not the only one.”

Even those measures already in place following a tightening of airport security worldwide since the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington are “not sustainable,” he said.

Concrete Barriers

Richard Gooding, chief executive officer at London City airport, five miles from the U.K. capital’s main financial district, cautioned against a further ratcheting up of security.

“People have to get in and out of airports,” Gooding said in an interview yesterday on the sidelines of an aviation conference in London. “People have got to continue living their lives, and in the end, you can’t remove the risk entirely.”

London City “hardened” security by erecting concrete barriers in nearby streets after an attack at Glasgow airport, Scotland, in June 2007, in which terrorists drove a vehicle carrying inflammable materials into the main terminal entrance.

U.K. Transport Minister Theresa Villiers said in an interview at the same conference that U.K. police have taken on board land-side security issues following the Glasgow attack.

‘Police Aware’

“We’re already vigilant, we already have very strict security standards and of course there is a focus on the land-side, as well as the air-side,” she said. “We’ll look at the outcome of any investigation that goes into the Moscow attack, but it’s something that we are very much aware of the risks of.”

Russian authorities have opened a criminal probe into negligence at Domodedovo following the attack there and officials from the Interior Ministry will be examined, the country’s Investigative Committee said Jan. 25 on its website. The offence could bring seven years in prison, it said.

The Moscow blast was the second major attack on the Russian capital in less than a year. Forty people died in twin suicide subway bombings during the morning rush hour last March. Doku Umarov, a militant from the southern Russian region of Chechnya, where government forces fought two wars against separatists between 1994 and 2000, claimed responsibility for those attacks.

ACI World, which represents airports globally, said separately in a statement that governments and international institutions should draw up a more effective regime for aviation security. It and ACI Europe are already working on a “Better Security” project to be presented later this year.

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