Major security loophole in aviation sector brought to light

Major security loophole in aviation sector brought to light
This reproduction of Malaysian police handout photographs shows 19-year-old Iranian Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad (left) and Delavar Seyed Mohammad Reza, 29, who both boarded the missing MH370 flight using stolen European passports.

KUALA LUMPUR - A major security loophole in the aviation industry was brought to light with the boarding of two passengers with stolen passports on Flight MH370, said the International Air Transport Associa­tion (IATA).

Its director-general and CEO Tony Tyler told the IATA Ops Conference here yesterday that airlines were not to blame for this loophole as it was the responsibility of governments to vet passenger data.

"Whether or not there is a security dimension to this tragedy, that two passengers could board an aircraft with fake passports rings alarm bells.

"Airlines are neither border guards nor policemen. That is the well-established responsibility of governments," he said in his opening remarks to kick off the two-day international conference.

After the disappearance of MH370 on March 8, Iranians Delavar Seyed Mohammad Erza, 29, and Pouria Nour Mohammad Merhdad, 19, were found to have boarded the plane using Italian and Austrian passports which were reportedly stolen in Thailand in 2013 and 2012 respectively.

Tyler said the industry went to "great lengths" each year to provide reliable data known as Advance Passenger Information (API) to governments.

Airlines, he said, in addition to passengers, had every right to ask governments to review their methods of using these data, including existing ones such as Interpol's stolen and lost passport database.

"It costs the airlines millions of dollars every year to provide API to some 60 governments. I have often wondered whether they are using it," he said.

Another challenge that needed to be addressed, he said, was in the way aircraft were tracked as they moved around the globe.

"In a world where our every move seems to be tracked, there is disbelief both that an aircraft could simply disappear and that the 'black box' is so difficult to recover.

"Air France 447 brought similar issues to light a few years ago and some progress were made. That must be accelerated," Tyler said, adding that an expert task force would examine all available options and report its findings by December.

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