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Airlines laud profits as security fears persist

September 22, 2016

The good news: more and more people are travelling by air, and airlines are seeing profits increase. The bad news: terrorists view airports and air travel as attractive targets for death and destruction.

A smoke-filled travel hall at Brussels' Zaventum Airport after a bomb explosion in March 2016.
Image: picture-alliance/AP/Ralph Usbeck

Global airlines are on pace to post record profits this year but they're still encountering considerable turbulence.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), predicts net industry profits of nearly $40 billion (36 billion euros) in profits this year - an increase of more than 10 percent from the 2015 figure of $35.3 billion.

But while this rosy scenario was being portrayed in Singapore, half a world away – in New York - the UN Security Council unanimously passed a resolution calling for improved screening and security checks at airports around the world in order to "detect and deter terrorist attacks" on commercial airlines.

Everything under control?

The upgrades should include tightened security at airport buildings, as well as better information sharing about potential threats; and it also calls for greater sharing of passenger lists with national law enforcement "to detect... attempted entry into or transit through their territories."

This is the first time the UN's most powerful body has passed a resolution devoted solely to aviation security. Attacks on airplanes and airports from Brussels to Istanbul and Egypt to Ukraine have prompted growing concern about safety.

The Security Council warns "that terrorist groups continue to view civil aviation as an attractive target, with the aim of causing substantial loss of life, economic damage" and air links between countries.

Brussels airport lounge reopens

Terrorists attracted to air travel

The resolution notes "that terrorist groups continue to view civil aviation as an attractive target, with the aim of causing substantial loss of life (and) economic damage."

In the run-up to the vote, Secretary General Fang Liu, of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), told the council that more than 100,000 flights take off daily, carrying 10 million travelers.

That adds up to 3.5 billion passengers per year. In addition, she said "one-third of the world's trade by value" was transported by airplanes.

'We should not be afraid'

Despite those already massive numbers Liu warned that "the worldwide air transport network will double its volume of flights and passengers by 2030" making the protection of civilian air travel - from "acts of unlawful interference" - one of ICAO's highest priorities.

Over the next three years the ICAO will work on a new Global Aviation Security Plan. Their priorities will include providing more technical aid to nations and "accelerate the development of human resources."

While current aviation security measures are constantly improving on both a regional and global level, Liu ticked off a list of dangers that need to be addressed quickly.

The ICAO concerns include small weapons carried by passengers, homemade bombs concealed in baggage and cargo, shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, ground security, cyber security, drones and insider threats.

bik/kl (AP, AFP, dpa)