Friday, December 31, 2010

Passenger surprised by lack of unnecessary ID checks when boarding a flight

Headline from online article from Community Telegraph (North Down edition)

Airlines operating in the UK are heavily regulated and their operations are governed by thousands of rules and regulations set by the CAA, Home Office, and other agencies. However, not all of the terms and conditions experienced by air passengers - at least not all of the ways they are implemented - can be traced back to legal requirements.

Ryanair insist that you show your passport at check-in or when boarding the plane, even for domestic flights within a country. It's for their convenience that they choose to make this a mandatory part of air travel.

Other airlines - budget and ... non-budget - allow other forms of identification, many even tolerating photographic id from national businesses (ie, professional looking work passes). They're trying to confirm that the person travelling is the person named on the boarding card. It's not fool-proof, but it stops someone buying lots of cheap fares and then selling them on to other people for a profit ... and leaving the airline with little idea of who is sitting on-board if there is an emergency.

Bigger and more-traditional carriers like bmi - who tend to charge more - are much less vulnerable to ticket touts, and can be more confident that the name of the person on the ticket is the person who has turned up.

None of these schemes offers absolute security ... even having to quote the passport number in advance just means that your forged passport matches your booking (rather than being checked against any kind of worldwide database of valid passports).

Screenshot of article from Community Telegraph (North Down edition)

I'm a big fan of the Community Telegraph but I notice that this week's North Down edition carries a bit of a non-story on its website.

Calls for tougher security at City Airport after ‘lapse’

Concerns have been raised about security at George Best Belfast City Airport after a passenger boarded a flight to London without once being asked for ID.

The man — who did not wish to be identified — says he was surprised to pass through the airport’s security points and departure gate without being asked to display identification.

It's no surprise that he wasn't asked for identification - other than his boarding card - at any point, since it's not bmi policy to ask. Hardly a lapse or a "lapse". In the hundreds of bmi flights I've made over the years back and forwards to Heathrow, I've never been asked.

East Belfast MLA Robin Newton was asked for comment and said:

“The maintenance of proper security at our airports is vitally important. At this time, there are many people, whether it be dissident republicans or Islamist extremists who would seek to target our country. I would urge the airport to ensure that whilst causing the minimum of possible delays to passengers, they guarantee that security is tight. We all want to ensure the community is kept safe.”

When contacted by the Community Telegraph, a spokesman for George Best Belfast City Airport said this was an issue for the airline.

The article - which perhaps should have had the headline "MLA says Islamist extremists target our country" - ended with a quote from bmi who spelt out that:

“For UK domestic flights such as Belfast to London, airlines are not obliged to check passenger identification under Home Office rules, however bmi staff will confirm passenger details before they board a flight. All passengers, whether domestic or international, are subject to security checks before boarding an aircraft.”

When the anonymous gentleman next boards a ferry for Scotland, he may be shocked to discover that the looking out of the hut (usually) counts the number of people in your vehicle to make sure it matches the number you've paid for and that they're expecting on board, but won't ask for any identification. Look out for the July headline ...

Calls for tougher security at Belfast harbour after ‘lapse’?


AirlinesAngel said...


Great blog, shame The Belfast Telegraph could not have spoken to you before printing/uploading the article!!

Coke_Shy_Hero said...

"Citizen Allowed to Travel Round Own Country Unhindered, Shock."