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Airlines employ fewer security staff to cut costs

The stun grenade found on an Air India flight kept on standby for a prime ministerial visit is threatening to blow up and expose the lacunae in security measures adopted by airlines.

The two-member panel set up to probe the incident is learned to have found that almost all airlines may be cutting costs by employing less than the required number of security personnel. “A wide body aircraft requires seven people for checks -three inside and four to stand guard outside. But given the life-threatening finances of Indian carriers, this is one area they all cut costs on. One person usually does the job of seven,” said a source. The Bureau for Civil Aviation Security mandates the number of people who should check an aircraft -both in terms of how many should go inside for verification as well as those who should stand guard outside the aircraft door, rear and belly of an aircraft when the checks are on. However, against the required seven, most airlines are making do with just one person. Being headless for years, like several other aviation agencies, BCAS did not or could not act on this issue till the AI fiasco happened.

The two-member probe panel, consisting of AI joint chief Syed Nasir Ali and BCAS acting chief B B Dash, will present its report to aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju this week when everyone is back after the extended weekend. “All airlines are going to be asked to specify how many people they have in their security wing. Security is one area where we should have zero tolerance to violation of rules,” said a source.