Latest posts by Martin Moodie (see all)
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And so to my final Blog of the year – and the decade.
2009 closes out with duty free once again finding itself among headlines of the unwelcome kind.
In the wake of the failed terrorist attack on a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day, the union representing German police officers is reportedly demanding a ban on the sale of fragrances, drinks with a high percentage of alcohol, lighters and razor blades at post-security Departures shops in European Union airports.
Trade union leader Rainer Wendt told the Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung: “On the other side of the security queues, potential attackers can get everything they need to build bombs in the duty free shops and restaurants.”
Coming from a leader of a policing organization, that’s crassly alarmist and irresponsible talk – which has, predictably, already been picked up by news organizations all around the world, including The Straits Times in Singapore. Many more will follow suit.
Wendt means well but he’s talking nonsense. Frankly, the authorities need to triple their efforts to prevent the Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallabs of this world from getting within 100 kilometres of an airport, rather than cracking down on what the overwhelming majority of innocent people can buy once they have cleared security.
However, the German union leader does have a point about razor blades. Given that they can be bought easily on arrival anywhere in the world and the easy propensity with which they could be turned into weapons, there is absolutely no justification in allowing their continued sale at airports.
The famous Swiss Army Knives were one of the early victims of the post-9/11 crackdown, making it even more indefensible that the likes of Gillette or Boot’s own-label razors blades are still widely available in airport shops.
As the whole post-August 2006 LAGs fiasco has shown, our channel is the softest of targets for the regulators. Let’s do our own policing please.
But if today brought one (largely) nonsensical statement from one interest group leader, it also generated arguably the most sensible quote of the year from another.
Calling for better partnership between the aviation industry and security regulators, International Air Transport Association (IATA) Director General and CEO Giovanni Bisignani (pictured) commented: “Instead of looking for bad things – nail clippers and rogue bottles of shampoo – security systems need to focus on finding bad people. Adding new hardware to an old system will not deliver the results we need.”
Substitute Johnnie Walker for nail clippers and Chanel No 5 for shampoo and Bisignani makes the precise, brilliantly articulated point that the travel retail industry must repeat time and again. The crackdown on LAGs (airside) – justifiable in the immediate post-August 2006 paranoia but not beyond that point – has achieved precisely nothing in combating terrorism.
As I pointed out in my last Blog (Kneejerk reactions and a Keystone Cops approach to terrorism), the authorities – especially in the US – need to take a long, long look at their own inability to monitor, let alone catch, obvious suspects before they render international travel an angst-ridden, inconvenient and wholly unfair experience for the rest of us.
2010 must be the year of catching the bad guys, not finding the soft targets. Happy New Year – I hope.