Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1300
WEDNESDAY 8 MAY 2002
1300. In the session we had with TRANSEC one
of our colleagues who is not here, Mr Hancock, narrated a tale
involving your former company, Mr Jack, which before our very
eyes let 30 pieces of luggage be checked in by one person. It
did happen to be a representative of the President of Malawi but
we were greatly irritated that we, in the line alongside, had
to verify and carry our own baggage whereas, apparently because
he was a VIP, one person was able to verify and accept responsibility
for an enormous number of items of baggage. Mr Hancock had a rather
cursory response. It was in Washington, where the standards operating
there are a matter of some debate. The fact it was a British national
airline which was rather complicit in this inadequate set of arrangements
caused us some concern, especially as we were rather paranoid
about getting on any aircraft at that time. So seeing what we
thought was a clear violation was somewhat embarrassing and led
to an exchange of correspondence. One further question before
we move away on to measures since 11 September. I know the United
States had a black list of airports where it told its airlines
not to go to. Do we have the same in the UK or does anybody else
have a black list and what kind of pressure can be brought against
those countries who operate security at international airports
that fall short of all of the acronyms that you mentioned earlier?
(Mr Jack) One of my roles was to ensure the level
of security at any airport from which British Airways operated.
I had a team of inspectors who audited those airports on a regular,
risk-related basis and so, as I said earlier, it was not so much
what measures were required by the host state; it was the measures
that were required by British Airways and we monitor the performance
of those. In terms of black listing airports, if any airport failed
to come up to the standards that my airline required it was my
responsibility to say that. I certainly have on occasion recommended
that we cease to operate from certain airports unless major improvements
were made. In black listing airports internationally, and I think
you mentioned the United States, I do not know if I confused the
issue by mentioning the clearance issue after 11 September. That
was something that the US FAA themselves imposed. They wanted
to audit the security at all the airports in the United States
to assure themselves that they were sufficient to allow operations
to re-start. One of the first to be cleared was Philadelphia for
us to operate to, I imagine because Philadelphia is a rather less
complicated airport than some of the others like, say, Atlanta
or Washington or New York.
(Mr Hutcheson) There are other measures we can take
on arrival if you have concerns about the security at the departing
airport. You can park the aircraft remotely and coach people into
the terminals so that they have no opportunity to mix with departing
passengers. There are two European states to my knowledge who
operate black lists and who search passengers on arrival. There
is the ultimate, that you can ban flights from those states. These
are all options that are available to TRANSEC should they wish
to implement them, but so far they have chosen not to.
1301. From the passengers'the customer'spoint
of view is there transparency in relation to the information about
airports' standard of security in various other countries? Can
I as a customer get that from anybody?
(Mr Hutcheson) I would doubt it very much because
I have found it very difficult as a security professional in the
industry to obtain that information. In many ways the only way
you can assess a country's security is to go there and audit it
for yourself, and the Government do do that. They operate on the
threat as advised by the Security Service. If it is sufficiently
high then clearly not flying there is the advice. The Government
will attend those countries, carry out an audit as to what security
the host state provides, and then will lay down a programme that
UK carriers must comply with before they can operate out of that
state. The only transparency I would say is if you actually fly
on a domestic UK carrier you can be assured that the Government
have actually been and inspected to say that the overall security
was to their satisfaction.
1302. But of course we do not always do that,
(Mr Hutcheson) No.
1303. And so therefore the customer, the passenger,
is the one individual in all of this that, if you will excuse
the phrase, is flying blind. I speak for myself alone, of course,
but I would like to see transparency in relation to what you have
been talking about. I fly to Beijing tomorrow. I would like to
be able to go to somebody like you or whoever and say, "Tell
me what the security arrangements are in Beijing", or wherever.
I think that is quite an omission from this whole scenario. Do
(Mr Hutcheson) I would not disagree because your safety
is paramount to you and you should be able to exercise a choice.
1304. Absolutely, so if we all agree that there
should be transparency for the customer here, and I have seldom
seen an industry where transparency is less available to the customer,
who in your view, if one were to go down that route, is best placed
to do it, to provide information to the customer?
(Mr Hutcheson) ICAO are commencing that piece of work,
but the first thing you have to do is audit against a programme.
You could say for transparency that every country had to publish,
its international aviation security programme and that would be
a start. But then you would want to know what was the compliance
level with that security programme, and to do that you need to
have qualified auditors who will independently audit states. In
Europe we are fairly advanced. At the European Civil Aviation
Conference there is an audit team that could come and audit UK
airports. I have got nothing to hide. I welcome that. To arrange
it on a global basis, however, is something for the Government
to raise and perhaps not for the industry. The only thing that
a carrier can do is to say, "I am not satisfied with the
security at your airports. I am not going to fly there",
but it would not help you in determining whether the other carriers
that fly there are satisfied with the security. It is a glaring
omission and I cannot offer you solutions this afternoon.
1305. You are telling me that it is a glaring
omission and you are telling me that the provision of transparency
is light years away for the customer?
(Mr Jack) I think I need to intervene here.
1306. Just so that I can get your response.
(Mr Hutcheson) That would be my view, yes.
1307. Mr Jack, I recall going to the FAA three
or four years ago and being shown a document in the general accounting
office listing all the duff airports, many of the small city airports,
and their failures. This manual, which was publicly available,
had it been available to any potential terrorists (as it probably
was), would have indicated clearly to them the vulnerabilities
of aviation security and airport security in particular in the
United States. When I said, "This of course is not published,
is it?", I was told, "Yes, it is". I am sure it
would not have been published in the UK. I think pressure needs
to be put on the industry and on Government to give people a clear
indication where the airports and airlines are where security
falls below or well below what should be seen as the minimum standards,
and at the moment there is very little of it.
(Mr Jack) I think you would have to address that to
your Department of Transport. They provide us with their assessment
of threat globally and, as I have explained already, my responsibility
in British Airways was to ensure compliance with the standards
laid down by the British Government to operate from individual
countries and if I felt that any international station was not
up to those standards then I would recommend that the airline
eased to operate from there.
1308. Did they take your advice?
(Mr Jack) Yes. There is a whole raft of confidence
issues that the passenger has to accept. I do not go to the bus
driver and ask him about the standard of maintenance of his bus
or the train driver about the track safety. These are all issues
that you rely on the company to ensure. Remember also that companies
receive operating certificates and airlines are issued with operating
certificates by the Government. That covers a raft of issuesengineering,
safety and security. If an airline has an operating certificate
then that is the assurance that the Government gives to the passenger
that it is safe to fly with that airline.
(Mr Hutcheson) Going back to the example you give
of the United States, they publish notices in airports of destinations
that they advise not to fly to. I think this may be linked to
the Freedom of Information Act in the United States which does
not operate in the UK so, although I say it is light years away,
there is information available at this moment in time. It is held
in Government within restricted documents and that might be the
1309. Do you have a view on why it is not made
public here, apart from perhaps privacy issues?
(Mr Hutcheson) I suspect the view is that the Department
believe that they put in sufficient measures to make UK carriers
safe, and also there is no inbound threat to UK airports. I would
think that if the level of security was unsatisfactory and created
a significant threat to a UK airport then they would ban flights
from that airport in the same way that, if you move into another
arena of maintenance and safety, the airlines who do not maintain
their aircraft to satisfactory standards are not allowed to fly
into UK airports.
1310. Are the two of you agreeing with the proposition
or disagreeing with the proposition that there should be more
transparency and availability of this information for the customer?
(Mr Jack) I am disagreeing. It exists through
1311. You trust the company?
(Mr Jack) You trust the company, you trust the certification
1312. My goodness, that is exactly what I would
not do as a customer, and there are plenty of precedents why I
would not do that. Can I be clear on your view, Mr Hutcheson?
(Mr Hutcheson) I disagree with Mr Jack. I think that
if you are going to undertake a journey you have a right to be
reassured about your safety and whatever we can do to give that
reassurance, it is our responsibility to do it.
1313. You are damn right.
(Mr Jack) I think I have given you that, have I not,
by describing the processes that our airline applies?
Mr Cran: No. What you have given me is that
you have asked me to put complete faith in the regulatory system
and in all companies that fly aircraft. I just think there are
too many incidents around that say that is not enough. If you
want to drive standards up internationally in all of those states
who are not doing what British Airways are doing we need the information
and then I think the customer will act in the way that customers
do act. That is the way to drive up standards in my view. Chairman,
that is my little homily for the day.
1314. I want to move on to measures taken since
11 September. We will come on to talking about measures to prevent
suicide bombers of the likes of Richard Reed getting on to aeroplanes.
I want to focus more on the views on security in our aircraft
themselves. First of all, I would be interested in your general
comments on the views on security in aircraft themselves and how
that has changed since September 11, and in particular I would
start with views on reinforcement and locking of cockpit doors
and whether that is practical and effective.
(Mr Jack) The answer is yes, it is both practical
and effective. The need to secure the doors was immediately recognised
and my airline installed what are called phase one doors which
are reinforced. I cannot remember the date upon which they were
introduced but it was as quickly as was practically possible after
11 September. There is going to be a subsequent upgrade to armoured
cockpit doors and the only reason that this has not been done
immediately is that the requirement to produce a specification
and manufacture doors to this grade is quite a complicated process
and I know that it will be completed by the end of this year.
1315. That is British Airways?
(Mr Jack) No. This is being done to a global standard.
I have to say that the US FAA are setting the pace here because
they are mandating the fitting of both the phase one reinforced
door and the phase two armoured door for all inbound flights to
the United States.
1316. Would that be standard practice about
flights coming in and out of the UK?
(Mr Hutcheson) The deadline is November 2003 for the
phase two doors for all international airlines. The UK and, as
Ian has already said, the Americans are actually expediting their
programmes to finish way ahead of that deadline. We are almost
back into the same territory as to other States moving at a pace
that is driven by their own governments.
1317. I understand that. What about arming flight
crew with lethal or non-lethal weapons?
(Mr Jack) Can I read from my script?
(Mr Jack) This is the Global Aviation Security Action
Group: "We believe that acts of unlawful interference should
be prevented on the ground. However, where the state mandates
the use of armed in-flight security personnel they should be provided
by the state which must have responsibility for funding, selection,
training and tasking of such personnel. The selection qualifications,
training and control of in-flight security personnel must be of
the highest standard." I attended a meeting of the European
Civil Aviation Conference Security Working Group in March and
the majority of states said that they believed the presence of
weapons on board an aircraft to be a risk to the security and
safety of their aircraft.
1319. Measures that have been taken include,
for example, not allowing metal cutlery, and yet you speak to
anyone who works in a prison and they tell you that a prisoner
can very rapidly fashion something pretty unpleasant out of plastic
cutlery. Do you not think that there is a need to ensure that
flight crew are able to tackle what is thrown at them and that
perhaps some form of weaponry, be it lethal or otherwise, is an
important part of that?
(Mr Hutcheson) There is a training programme being
worked up by the Department of Transport and they have taken advice
from external consultants and behavioural scientists and it will
be introduced into the industry to give training to flight crew
to deal with potential hijacks and incidents in the air. Another
point on sky marshals, I think it is a very serious issue because
if states are encouraged to have sky marshals I think there are
potential safety problems in the air. My background is in the
police service and firearms can go off accidentally. In the air,
if they are not trained properly, it could be catastrophic. The
second thing is that if we put huge effort into securing the air
side part of an airport and every state that is flying in is flying
with firearms for sky marshals you do not know who is training
whom, then you are almost diluting your own security by allowing
weapons to come in. It is quite a difficult thing to manage. I
think it is not as simple an issue as some people may think it