The tragic crash of Germanwings flight 4U9525 in France has prompted the German government to rethink airline security. Compulsory identity checks on flights within Europe's Schengen Area may be in the cards.
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said he was considering the reintroduction of compulsory identity checks on all flights traveling within the European Union and Schengen Area, according to a report in the German mass-market daily "Bild" on Thursday.
Authorities have revisited flight security measures, after Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz is thought to have intentionally crashed an Airbus A320 into the French Alps last week, killing all 150 people on board.
"After the crash, we checked all the passengers and crew to see if any were known threats - because we wanted to know if it was a terrorist attack. But we found it wasn't at all clear who was even on board the plane," de Maiziere told "Bild."
The interior minister also said that the abolition of border controls and passport checks within the Schengen Area meant the identity of airline passengers was no longer systematically checked.
"If a passenger gives their ticket to another person, only the name of the first passenger will be recorded," de Maiziere said. "This is a huge security problem, and we need to seriously consider whether it can really stay that way in the future...we need to know, for safety reasons, who is actually on board an aircraft."
Visa-free travel is permitted for everyone inside the 26-member Schengen group.
De Maiziere also called for a better exchange of flight passenger information with non-EU countries to help identify potential suspects and prevent terrorist attacks.
New locks for cockpit doors?
A taskforce made up of experts and airline representatives has meanwhile been set up to examine safety issues that have emerged in the wake of the Germanwings crash, such as the cockpit door's locking mechanism and medical testing for pilots.
Investigators looking into the tragedy allege co-pilot Lubitz locked the pilot out of the cockpit before deliberately setting the plane into a rapid descent. It's not clear what a possible motive could have been.
German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt said Thursday the taskforce would look into whether changes were needed in pilot medical exams and "psychological criteria and procedures." It will also review whether to do away with the door protection mechanism in the cockpit, which makes it impossible for the entrance to be opened without the consent of those in the cockpit.
The measure was introduced in the wake of the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, to prevent extremists from entering the cockpit.
nm/sms (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)