The events of Sept. 11, 2001, prompted a major shift in the security precautions taken by British Airways Plc., Colin H. Alexander, vice president of security and safety in the company’s New York office, told a breakfast gathering of the British American Business Group in Atlanta Jan. 19.
“In the past it was a ‘trust us’ attitude,” Mr. Alexander said. “Security was a verboten topic.” But in the wake of the attack on the World Trade Center towers, British Airways adapted a new public awareness strategy that included increasing its announcements about safety precautions as well as encouraging its passengers to be attentive.
“We want passengers to participate in the process and have them detect potential problems,” he added. “What we have done is put a new information process in place and give much more detail without being too specific.”
Mr. Alexander did not elaborate on how he determined what information might be considered as “too specific.” But he added that British Airways closely followed a report explaining how airlines should deal with its passengers that was published by the Rand Corp., a nonprofit research organizing based in Santa Monica, Calif.
He said British Airways spends $189 million (100 million pounds) annually on security and has 30 full-time staff members in London and three people in New York assigned to security issues.
He reviewed a checklist of safety precautions ranging from new policies such as forbidding passengers to enter the flight deck to a yellow card system based on disciplinary codes used by European soccer teams for dealing with unruly passengers.
“Anything that gets on the plane is checked,” he said, “and the protection of baggage and cargo is a process that is as layered as an onion.”
When asked what precautions British Airways had taken to guard against attacks from shoulder-fired missiles, he declined to elaborate. He added, however, that security precautions were in place as they were to guard against intruders onto runaways who climb over fences and other barriers to the runways.
According to Mr. Alexander, British Airways security personnel work closely with U.S. and UK government agencies. On occasion, he added, there are points of disagreement between U.S. and UK policies.
He said compliance with the U.S. policy of requiring the list of all passengers coming into the U.S. on every flight two hours ahead of flight time had been difficult and the two governments had worked together on dealing with the issue.
Last week, the Rand Corp. issued a report saying that it would not be cost effective to spend billions of dollars equipping American commercial airliners with systems to guard against attacks from shoulder-fired missiles.
The report also said that the investment could be justified in time if anti-missile systems are made more economical and reliable.
To learn of other BABG events, go to www.babgatlanta2005.org. To reach, Mr. Alexander call (347) 418-4828 or send an email to email@example.com.