Dubai: Airport security concerns came into focus at the Dubai Airshow, which wrapped up today, after suspicions mounted that a bomb brought down a Russian airliner in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
Sales were quiet at the biennial fair, with the fast-rising Gulf carriers that had turned the gathering into a regular venue for mega-deals, saying they had enough on order.
So there was plenty of time to reflect on what easyJet CEO Carolyn McCall told the BBC this week “kept airline chief executives awake at night” — the fear of a bomb being carried or stowed on board a flight.
What focused their attention was the crash two weeks ago of a Russian passenger jet over the Sinai after it took off from the Red Sea resort, killing all 224 people on board.
The Islamic State group claimed, without providing details, that it had downed the Metrojet Airbus A-321. Britain, the United States and international investigators suspect it was a bomb that exploded just under 24 minutes after it took off.
British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond charged that some countries have a problem with training and motivating security staff.
“You don’t need a sophisticated capability to get a small bomb, and that’s all you need to bring down an aircraft, a small bomb with a straightforward timer.
“Sadly there are many, many people who can do that. The issue is about getting it air side in an airport that is supposed to be secure,” he warned.
Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum, CEO of Dubai’s carrier Emirates, told AFP that security at Dubai International, the world’s largest in terms of international passengers handled, is of “utmost priority” for authorities in the Gulf city state.
He said the airline’s “security is in constant contact with other airports, in case there is any information … They need to look at that could be related to security”.
Emirates President Tim Clark described the suspected bombing of the Russian plane as a “game changer”, pledging to reassess security procedures at several destinations.
“We’re reviewing our procedures in terms of security and ramp handling and access to our aircraft,” Clark was cited by Bloomberg as saying.
“We have 22 cities in Africa, multiple cities in west Asia — India, Pakistan, et cetera — all of these will have to be reviewed to make sure we’re as safe as we can be.
“There are many airports in the world where if people wanted to do some pretty bad things they could do them,” he said.