Dan Milmo
September 7, 2011

Airports are wasting billions of pounds on unnecessary security checks for travellers who pose no threat to planes, according to the airline industry’s global body, amid growing support for an airport screening regime that gives preferential treatment to low-risk passengers.

The International Air Transport Association, whose members include British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and more than 200 global airlines, said main airports were struggling to cope with mounting layers of safety regulations that now cost the financially troubled industry $7.4bn (£4.6bn) a year to implement. Tony Tyler, director general of IATA, said: “We spend a huge amount of resource on screening people who quite frankly do not need it.

“We need to find a better way of doing it. Apart from the cost, we are putting our customers through an immensely complicated and, most of the time, unnecessary, hassle. And airports are creaking at the seams to find the space and capacity to deal with this,” he added.

Tyler backed a programme being developed by the US Transportation Security Administration, where low-risk passengers could be given less stringent checks if they supplied information including frequent flyer details and travel records. He added that governments should pay for aviation security, not airports, airlines and ultimately passengers. A big manufacturer of airport screening equipment, the UK-based Smiths Group, has seen annual revenue from its detection gear business rise after 9/11 from about £130m to £574m last year – an indication of the costs that have been passed on to passengers.

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