By Danish Minister for Transport, Henrik Dam Kristensen
Over the last decades, the number of flight routes and airline passengers has increased significantly. In 2010, over 750 million passengers arrived at or departed from the more than 450 airports in the EU. In addition, air traffic is expected to almost double before 2030. In many respects, this development is positive, but it also brings about a range of challenges in airports across Europe. For instance, the convoluted airport security procedures and the EU rules on flight time and rest time for flight staff have the potential to become serious impediments to the European aviation sector. I will raise these issues at the EU Council meeting for the Ministers for Transport on 22 March 2012. Here’s why.
The security control in airports is one of the places, where the increasing number of airline passengers can pose a great challenge. Most of us are already familiar with the scenario: When reaching the security control, you go through an extensive procedure of taking your laptop and liquids out of your bag, taking off your jacket, belt, cardigan and shoes and emptying your pockets. Then, you finally make your way through the security control, while crossing your fingers that the alarm does not go off.
Security is a matter of great importance to me. However, I also believe that it is important to ensure that the security measures applied are in proportion to the pertinent threat.
On one hand, passengers must feel safe when boarding a flight. Clearly, the world we knew changed on 11 September 2001 and as a result, the requirements for aviation security were tightened. There is no doubt that aviation has to be a safe mode of transport, because we live in a world where we are highly dependent on being able to travel by plane around the world.
On the other hand, passengers and airports should not be met with what may seem to be unreasonable rules, which can be difficult to manage and follow. Even though the vast majority of travelers are familiar with the rules and procedures, passengers often get confused about the rules. This delays the process at the security control to the inconvenience of airport staff, the unfortunate traveler and the other passengers in the queue. The key is to find a sensible balance in order for passengers, airline companies and airports to experience a satisfactory level of security, which is not hampered by extensive and complex requirements with no added value.
For this reason, I will ask my European colleagues if they too believe that the time has come for conducting a service check of the current security rules, which should consider if security could be conducted more intelligently and resource-efficiently.
In this context, I will also raise the issue of flight time regulations for pilots and other flight staff. Fatigue among pilots is a very serious matter and over the coming years, the increasing number of passengers and flights will pose challenges in relation to the pilots’ flight time regulations.
It is essential to create the right balance between flight time and rest time for pilots in order to ensure flight safety. We should all feel safe in the knowledge that our pilots and other flight staff are well-rested and ready for duty. Stories in the media about tired pilots, who have fallen asleep during the flight, may cause passengers to doubt whether their pilot is fit to fly. We cannot put passengers nor pilots in this kind of situation.
At a European level, preparation for updating the rules for flight time regulation is underway. The Danish Presidency will underline that the regulations should be based on scientific research and expert recommendations.
I look forward to discussions with my European colleagues at the Council meeting next week. I hope that we can agree to give a clear signal to the European Commission that focus should be given to these matters.