Liq­uids re­stric­tion to be re­laxed at Heathrow


Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - TRAVEL 2010 -

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.

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