Select Committee on Defence Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by bmi british midland (7 June 2002)


  British Midland Airways Limited, trading as bmi british midland ("bmi") is an airline operator whose activities include the provision of scheduled passenger and cargo services, engineering services, charter and aircraft leasing. The airline is a wholly-owned subsidiary of British Midland Plc.

  The principal business of bmi is the operation of commercial scheduled air services on UK domestic and intra-European routes from London Heathrow. bmi is the UK's second largest full-service scheduled airline operating over 2,000 flights a week with a fleet of 60 jet aircraft, serving 30 destinations in 11 countries and carried seven million passengers in 2001. bmi operates other significant bases at Manchester and East Midlands airports. In addition, bmi also operates daily services from Manchester to both Chicago and Washington DC and is the largest British operator of transatlantic scheduled services from UK regional airports.

  bmi was originally invited to give oral evidence to the Committee, however, after consultation other UK airlines and bmi's security expert, decided that our views would be best represented by Mr Ian Jack, from our international trade body the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Having attended the oral session on 8 May, we now wish to submit additional comments and information with regard to some of the topics discussed at that session.


  The Department of Transport is currently developing an approval process for private aviation security firms. While bmi believes it is in the best interests of aviation security to maintain consistent high standards for recruitment, training, operational performance testing, and monitoring, we believe that such standards are already in place and the aim should be to ensure that these standards are fully applied.


  The presence of uniformed military personnel at civilian airports has the potential to be an effective means of instilling public confidence in aviation security. In an operational context, however, uniformed military presence only supplements the security processes already in place. The complex day-to-day operations of airlines and airports are carried out by staff with high levels of training and experience—something which non-permanent military personnel may not be suited to.


  The most effective form of defence and the greatest concentration of effort must be in the process of screening and assessing passengers prior to their boarding of an aircraft. When performed in conjunction with airline ground staff, as well as with the co-operation and participation from airport staff across all disciplines, the result is an effective network of passenger screening from land-side airport entry to air-side aircraft boarding.


  The US Transport Safety Authority requires that strengthened cockpit doors be fitted to all aircraft operating into the USA as from April 2003. bmi's two A330-200s which currently operate between Manchester and Washington and Chicago will have Airbus approved doors fitted at the end of the summer. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has also set a standard for the fitting of doors to all aircraft by October 2003. bmi is of the view that future aircraft configurations will be designed in such a way as to avoid the need for passengers to enter the front end of the cabin in order to access to the galley or toilets.

  The measures being implemented to upgrade the integrity of the flight deck, combined with the probable introduction of cabin surveillance systems that can be monitored from the flight deck serve as meaningful security enhancements and will further enhance passenger confidence.


  The overall success of aviation security processes relies to a great extent on the ability of the airlines, airports, and other related service providers to consistently apply the measures required in an effective and operationally compatible manner. It is important that Central Government must therefore ensure that its aviation security policies support this aim. The tragic events of September 11 necessitated swift and decisive action on the part of governments and airlines alike in order to both immediately improve the effectiveness of security measures and also to boost public confidence in aviation security. While the immediate response necessary after September 11 did not allow for a dialogue among all interested parties, in future a fully inclusive process of dialogue regarding heightened security measures among all stakeholders is, and should be, followed as a matter of course.


  The impetus following post-September 11 towards international acceptance of aviation security standards is welcome. To a large extent, however, the foundations upon which these standards are being built are modelled on the security mechanisms already in place in the UK. Initiatives regarding enhanced security measures are being taken by ICAO, ECAC, the EU and individual states, all of whom will benefit from increased harmonisation of security standards. From the industry side, organisations such as IATA and The Association of European Airlines (AEA), have worked together with governments to recommend and adopt significant improvements in airline and passenger security.

  Such an international consensus does not exist, however, with respect to the funding of these heightened security measures. On behalf of all UK airlines, IATA and the AEA have advanced the argument that the threat of terrorism is politically motivated and therefore is a threat against the state. The airline industry alone cannot and should not be forced to internalise the full cost of the additional security measures.

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