Safety has top priority in air transport

Contact person
More information on this topic
Sebastian Dreyer (attorney at law)
+49 30 520077-120 sebastian.dreyer@bdl.aero
Carola Scheffler
Press Spokesperson, Head of Public Relations and Event Management
+49 30 520077-117 carola.scheffler@bdl.aero

In order to illustrate the complex system of aviation security checks, we first have to look at the different parts of the airport, which is primarily divided into two areas:

  • The land side: This is the public area of the airport that can be entered and used without passing a control. This includes, for example, parking decks and the entrance area of the terminal.
  • The air side: The air side comprises all secured areas of the airport, from the waiting areas at the gate to the apron and the standing aircraft. Passengers and their luggage as well as employees, transport vehicles and goods only enter this area once they have passed through the respective security checkpoints.

Organization of security checks in Germany

Only those passengers who want to move from the land side to the air side are checked, for example passengers who want to travel by air. Arriving passengers generally do not have to pass security checks – unless they change planes at the airport and continue their journeys.

There are three main checkpoints at each airport. They are answerable to different federal ministries, and different bodies are responsible for technical oversight and implementation:

Anyone who has ever traveled by air knows the passenger controls and luggage inspections. How these should normally take place is stated in Section 5 of the German Aviation Security Act. It is the responsibility of the Federal Police, which employs aviation security assistants from private security companies to support them, to ensure that they are carried out accordingly.

According to Section 8 of the German Aviation Security Act, personnel and goods controls are the responsibility of the respective state aviation authorities. They are carried out by the airports, which can also commission private security companies to support them. In addition to personnel and goods controls, this includes the self-protection and property protection of the airport. This means that all goods that are offered in the security area are inspected, as are all employees, service providers and their vehicles, along with any construction materials or other goods that are needed on the air side of the airport.

Finally, there is the third checkpoint for aircraft security and inspection of cargo and mail. According to Section 9 of the German Aviation Security Act, this is the responsibility of the Federal Ministry of Transport and the Federal Aviation Office (LBA) and is carried out by the airlines. This includes aircraft surveillance, monitoring of the secure supply chain and cargo control.

Bodies responsible for aviation security tasks

The aviation security system in Germany is thus shaped by many different players: several federal ministries and their subordinate authorities as well as the federal states, but also the aviation companies themselves, i.e., airports and airlines, are responsible for the tasks of aviation security.

Companies in the aviation industry – and with regard to security controls in particular, the airports – are the most heavily regulated infrastructure operators. They are fully monitored both by national legislation and by international regulations and the associated authorities.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is responsible for uniform international rules and regulations. It develops standards and recommendations (SARPS) for the safe and efficient organization of civil air traffic, which are then transferred by the states into national air-traffic law. In addition, following the attacks of September 11, the European Union adopted its own uniform and comprehensive aviation security system. The international and European standards are monitored through audits by national and European authorities.

Further development of aviation security checks

In the wake of the continuing general terrorist threat, the requirements for security checks on passengers and luggage have increased significantly, as have the associated costs. This makes it all the more important to achieve considerable efficiency improvements and capacity expansions in view of the steady growth in passenger numbers (+67 percent since 2001) and limited infrastructure at airports. Experience from abroad and from pilot projects in Germany shows that there is considerable potential for improvement in the throughput of a checkpoint – i.e., the number of passengers per hour that can be checked.

Our local airlines are prepared to take on more responsibility in organizing security checks. It is completely undisputed that aviation security checks are a public authority task. This must remain so, and the airlines do not want to change this. The technical supervision, liability and approval of the technical safety-related equipment should always remain with the state. But the responsibility for implementation, i.e., the selection of the companies and the technology used as well as the processes themselves, must be more in the hands of those who control the inspections on site and are close to what is happening – the airports.