Tightened controls at the Ruzyne airport continue

In the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks on the United States, the world has been seeking all possible ways of preventing the hijacking of planes. Tightened security measures - that until September 11th had only been applied in Israel - have now become a common practice at nearly all airports across the world, including Ruzyne airport here in Prague. Alena Skodova reports:

Tightened security measures at the Ruzyne airport in Prague include closer controls of passengers and screening of luggage. I asked Mrs. Vlasta Palova, spokesperson of the Airports Administration, if the flight-crews were also better protected.

"The crews have to go through security controls, but this was the case in the past as well. At present, though, they are controlled in the same way as passengers, that means that all their luggage must pass through an x-ray detector and the pilots and stewardesses themselves must go through the detection frame."

Last week, the EU agreed on yet more tightened security at airports, meaning the installation of yet more sophisticated detectors and even diplomats not being permitted to enter restricted areas. Ruzyne Airport does not rank among the largest in the world, so I asked Mrs. Palova whether something similar was being prepared here, and whether our devices were fully compatible with those in EU countries or the United States?

"Detector devices at the Ruzyne airport are at the top level since the opening of a new terminal in 1997, and we also apply a 100 percent control of all luggage - this is something which is not done everywhere in the world. It means that not only luggage that go into the luggage hold but also all the baggage passengers take onboard must pass through an x-ray detector."

Last Friday, the Minister of the Interior Stanislav Gross came up with the idea that civil pilots should be specially vetted to prove they have no contacts with organized crime. This would make the Czech Republic the first country in the world where a pilots' history would be thoroughly scrutinized. Similar measures are currently being considered only in the United States. Although it's not yet clear who would do the vetting, Czech Airlines said they had no opposition to such a measure if it was required by the Interior Ministry.

After September 11th airlines worldwide have been facing serious problems and some have even gone bankrupt, but Mrs. Palova says the situation at the Ruzyne airport has not changed dramatically:

"In September alone, the number of passengers at Ruzyne dropped by 1 percent, but we still enjoy the growth of 14 percent in the first nine months of 2001, and we do hope that although there might be a drop in the last three months of the year, it will not go below a ten percent growth. Passengers fully understand and rely on the security measures we pursue and there have been no protests so far."