Liquids restriction to be relaxed at Heathrow
THIS should be the last Christmas when airline passengers will be limited to small 50ml bottles of liquid or cosmetics in their hand luggage, in transparent plastic bags ready to show at security. This precaution a g a i n s t t e r r o r i s m, i n t r o d u c e d whe n extremists were caught planning to blow u p t r a ns a t l a nt i c f l i ght s f r om L ondon Heathrow with liquid explosives carried in s oft dri nk bottles, i s one which many people find most irritating, particularly as electronic equipment that can detect the presence of explosives in liquid is available.
The UK, at least, is now planning to phase this precaution out, starting in April, as the equipment is installed at its airports and, it can be hoped, this will be the case everywhere by the end of next year. I haven’t heard whether parents will still be obliged to taste baby food to convince security officers that it really is what it purports to be.
Although no sane person would object t o a nt i - t e r r or i s m measures f ol l owing attempts to blow up aircraft in flight, the I nternational Air Transport Association (IATA) has fought hard to reduce the number of unnecessary precautions that, i t points out, harass air travellers when the objectives can be reached by the installation of electronic equipment, including the cameras that can identify passengers with biometric passports containing fingerprints and the equally distinctive photographs of the irises of their eyes. Unfortunately not everyone has these passports yet. The older ones will be in use for a few more years.
The fight against causing unnecessary inconvenience to passengers has been continued vigorously by IATA, which has also campaigned for higher standards of safety, for more direct flights between airports and better air traffic management to avoid a waste of fuel and reduce emissions of carbon dioxide.
It has also encouraged airlines and aircraft manufacturers to experiment with biofuels causing less pollution than those made from fossil oil.
It has also campaigned against restrictions that prevent airlines on different continents from amalgamating, which has led to the formation of the three big international alliances: Star Alliance, to which SAA belongs; Sky Team, led by the merged Air France and KLM, and including US airline Delta; and One World, led by British Airways (BA) and American Airlines.
So far at least the three genuinely compete and there are still some independents, notably Virgin Atlantic Airways and the three Middle Eastern airlines flying into Cape Town – Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways. Competition authorities in different countries al s o protect consumers against agreements likely to push up the cost of flying.
When I first began to write about airlines, IATA was a far less influential and aggressive organisation. The change, which has forced governments to take more notice of it and has led to improvements i n ai r s af ety, are l argely due t o Giovanni Bisignani, its energetic and determined director general and chief executive, who is due to retire in the middle of next year. He is due to be replaced by Tony Tyler, chief executive of Cathay Pacific Airlines.
This is the l ast column of this year as this is the last issue of Travel2010. But I will be back with news of new developments in the industry in Travel2011. In the meantime, I wish all readers an enjoyable holiday and hassle-free flying.