ICAO to discuss airport security and other threats at expert panel in March

MONTREAL – The UN agency that oversees global aviation will focus on airport security at a meeting in March in light of the recent terrorist attack that brought down a Russian airliner in Egypt, a top official said Monday.

Olimuyiwa Benard Aliu of Nigeria, council president of the International Civil Aviation Organization, said some countries need to do a better job addressing security challenges, including “insider threats” from airport staff, airline employees and others who have access to aircraft.

While most member countries meet high standards, “sometimes we do find there are deficiencies here and there,” he told reporters following the opening of a three-day aviation forum on the economic contribution of global aviation.

“The whole essence is to put in place mechanisms to assist the members states in addressing those challenges.”

Aliu said ICAO will implement recommendations of an investigation being conducted into the Oct. 31 explosion aboard the Russian plane that killed 224 people. The Islamic terrorist group ISIS has claimed responsibility, saying it planted a bomb aboard the aircraft.

“If there are specific recommendations that we need to pay attention to you can be rest assured that we will take action immediately,” Aliu said.

Aliu said 2014 was the safest year on record for commercial aviation and the sector wants to maintain that standard to ensure travellers continue to have confidence in airline travel, a big contributor to global economic activity.

Aviation generates US$2.4 trillion in economic activity annually supporting 58 million jobs, including 8.5 million direct employment.

The number of passengers is expected to more than double to six billion over the next 15 years, while more than half the 1.1 billion tourists who crossed international borders last year did so by air.

To ensure continued safety, countries need to develop new technologies and train employees to handle the extra traffic without more accidents, congestion or delays.

ICAO Secretary General Fang Liu of China said some developing states need help to enhance their capabilities.

“We would like to help the states with minimum standards,” she said, adding the extra funding shouldn’t come from higher security fees paid by passengers.

Liu said the agency’s No Country Left Behind strategy launched last year was designed to help countries to upgrade infrastructure, train workers and establish oversight systems.

Earlier, federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau said the Canadian government supports efforts to strengthen security and build the capability of aviation systems around the world.

Garneau, Canada’s first astronaut in space, also said efforts are needed to address climate change.

“So I applaud ICAO’s vision to increase the sustainability of international air transportation and reduce its impact on the environment.”

The world’s airlines are expected to have a banner year in 2015, earning four per cent profit margin on US$727 billion in revenues, according to the International Air Transport Association.

CEO Tony Tyler outlined the industry’s strategy for success.

“Ensure that the industry is safe, secure, sustainable and profitable and the rest will follow,” Taylor told the conference, while also warning against over-regulating and over-taxing the sector.

“The most successful governments value aviation as a broad economic catalyst supporting long-term development,” he said.

Follow @RossMarowits on Twitter.