Universal Airline not responsible for security measures
Stabroek News
January 26, 2002

Dear Editor,

As a frequent traveller, I can relate to Bert Jones's anger and frustration over flight delays and going through repeated and extensive security checks before boarding an aircraft, expressed in his letter captioned "Guyanese travellers are having a hard time" (l9.l.2002).

As someone who made about ten foreign flights per year from New York to various parts of the globe over the last five years, I have grown accustomed and have learned to relate to delays as well as the gruesome security checks. But most of the check points have nothing to do with the carrier. Rather, they are simply procedures that the airline or the airport is following on the instructions of the American Federal Aviation Authority

before take off. And if the carrier does not follow the instructions laid down by the FAA, it faces heavy fines and sanctions that could include suspension of landing and take off in the U.S.

Jones and other Guyanese travellers have to get accustomed to the new security procedures in place at airports all over the globe. In fact, even before the September 11 hijackings, flights coming to the U.S were required to thoroughly screen passengers. Carriers are careful about slip ups in who is allowed to board the plane. Any slight mistake in a passenger who should not be on board or any breach in security often results in a hefty fine from the FAA. In India, for example, I went through two check points and x ray of all baggage before checking in at the United Airline counter; this included an interview about the contents in my bags and whether I packed them myself and had items given to me by others. Then I had to clear immigration after which there was an exit customs inspection. This was followed by another x ray of hand pieces and clearance through the metal detectors. Then there was a check of and the collection of boarding documents which was followed by a final inspection of travel documents and a brief interview before entering the aircraft.

Thus, Guyanese are not the only travellers who are subjected to extensive and perhaps unnecessary security searches and Universal Airline is not the only carrier conducting these searches. They are mandated by government (s) and airlines have no choice but to implement them.

I do, however, believe that some of the searches are redundant. For example, once hand pieces have been x rayed and hand searched and passengers have been cleared through the scanners and metal detectors, there isn't a need for another search before boarding. But there is no way out of another search once the plane is in transit at Piarco. FAA rules require that all passengers exit the aircraft and their belongings be x rayed and the passengers clear security again.

With regard to delays, I empathize with Jones. I hate delays but some are not of the carrier's doing. Take for example passengers who show up late at the check in counter or for boarding. The carrier may be forced to wait for them. But in the case of Jones's flight on Universal, there was a mechanical problem with the aircraft's hydraulic system. Aircraft of all airlines often break down without notice. There is nothing management can do about it other than to fix the problem. And as Jones noted, the mechanical problem was fixed and the airline arrived in N.Y two hours late but the key point is it arrived safely. I am sure passengers must have been pleased to know that the mechanical problem was identified on the ground rather than in the air when it might have been too late to fix it. And so praise should go to the airline's management with the way they handled the mechanical problem.

Yours faithfully,

Vishnu Bisram