According to the Financial Times, "the chairman of British Airways has launched an attack on 'completely redundant' airport checks and said the UK should stop “kowtowing” to US demands for increased security.
According to the FT report, which has started causing a stir on this side of the Atlantic: "The comments by Martin Broughton reflect broader industry and passenger frustration over the steady accumulation of rules on everything from onboard liquids to hand baggage that have blossomed since the September 11 terrorist attacks."
A British Airways spokeswoman told me today that Mr. Broughton's comments, made at a European aviation conference this week, came in a question and answer session with reporters following a formal speech.
Answering questions Tuesday at the annual conference of the UK Airport Operators Association in London on Tuesday, he said that TSA mandates requiring passengers to take off their shoes and remove laptops from cases should be eliminated.
British Airways has about 500 flights each week to the United States, including 7 daily roundtrips between Kennedy and Heathrow, one daily between Kennedy and London City Airport and three daily between Newark and Heathrow.
The FT report says: "The US required extra passenger checks at international airport gates after a Nigerian man tried to detonate a device hidden in his underwear on a flight to Detroit in December, a move some European airlines say unnecessarily duplicates existing checks.
Colin Matthews, chief executive of BAA, owner of Heathrow, agreed there was a need to review the government’s existing security programs. He told the Financial Times: “Today’s arrangements are incremental and I think there is a case for saying let’s start from a clean sheet of paper to achieve what we want to achieve."
Today, Broughton's comments elicited wide agreement among colleagues in Europe, the FT says in a follow-up report.
Some of the impetus for the criticism appears to be a move to prod government aviation authorities in Europe and the EU in Brussels to take a stronger stand about what are seen in Europe as hair-trigger reactions in the United States. And it would be wrong to underestimate the amount of irritation caused in Europe recently when the U.S. State Department issued a very unusual travel warning for Americans traveling in Europe -- based, critics in Europe said, on little more than an accumulation of scattered intelligence reports, with no specificity. The State Department move really rankled travel authorities and businesses in Europe with that move, which was seen in Europe as an overreaction to terrorist-intelligence chatter.
And all you have to do to get a sample of how U.S. security plays among Europeans is to ask one visiting this country about his or her experiences at U.S. airports.
Stay tuned on this one.