The terrorist attack on the Brussels airport has once again raised question about airport and airline security. In spite of the many attacks on airports and aircraft that have occurred, the airline industry remains stuck in a largely reactive modus operandi. Now that the Brussels attack has occurred, that airport will, at least for a short time, become a fortress. But what about six months from now? What can be done to change the way airlines and airports address risk on an ongoing basis?
The world can learn a lot from Israel. No country in the world faces more terrorist threats than Israel, and no airport in the world faces more such threats than Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport. The Israelis have of course been the gold standard for establishing and maintaining security in all its forms. Much of the airport’s security protocol is achieved through a combination of comprehensive due diligence, common sense, and consistency — which, one would think would be the objective of airport authorities throughout the world. Yet very few other airports have achieved the level of security that exists at Ben Gurion.
All vehicles that arrive at Ben Gurion must first pass through a preliminary security checkpoint where armed guards search the vehicle and exchange a few words with the driver and occupants to gauge their mood and intentions. Plain clothes officers patrol the area outside the terminal building, assisted by sophisticated hidden surveillance cameras which operate around the clock. Armed security personnel patrol the terminal and keep a close eye on people entering the terminal building. If any persons seem suspicious or anxious, security personnel will approach them and engage them in conversation in an effort to gauge their intentions and mood. Vehicles are subject to a weight sensor, a trunk x-ray and an undercarriage scan.
Departing passengers are questioned by highly trained security agents before they reach the check-in counter. These interviews could last as little as one minute or as long as an hour, based on such factors as age, race, religion and destination.