Global Airline Industry Head Slams New Brussels Airport Security

  • IATA chief says pre-screening is both a nuisance and a danger
  • Airlines oppose security-perimeter extension after attacks

The head of the world’s biggest airline association lambasted passenger pre-screening introduced at Brussels airport after last month’s terrorist attacks, saying the practice not only annoys travelers but also endangers them.

“It’s created large and dense crowds that could be targeted, not to mention the huge inconvenience to people who want to travel,” Tony Tyler, director general of the International Air Transport Association, told an aviation conference on Tuesday in Brussels. “Extending the security perimeter is not the solution.”

Belgium is still struggling to restore normal air- and ground-transport operations in the capital after March 22 suicide bombings by home-grown Islamic radicals in the departures hall of Brussels airport and at a downtown subway station killed a total of 32 people. At the airport, which is the hub of Brussels Airlines NV, temporary structures have been erected outside the departures hall to pre-screen passengers.

Brussels Airlines, a unit of Deutsche Lufthansa AG, has advised its customers flying out of the city to check in their baggage the day before their flights in order to “avoid stress” on the day of departure.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has advertised free train tickets from Brussels to Amsterdam in a bid to lure passengers away from Belgium’s main air gateway. The publicity campaign prompted a rebuke last week from Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, who said “I don’t see that as fair play.”

Tyler, whose Geneva-based organization represents more than 250 airlines, said he encountered the new check-in hassles at Brussels airport during a one-day visit to the city last Friday. In his speech on Tuesday, an icy-cold and rainy day in Brussels, he drew attention to his departure later in the day.

“I’m looking forward to experiencing it again this afternoon, only this time probably in the rain or maybe even the snow,” Tyler said, drawing laughter from the audience.

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