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Qantas Statement on Aviation Security

SYDNEY, 01 June 2003

Qantas Airways warned today that "knee-jerk responses" to the attempted hijack of a Qantas jet last Thursday could paralyse Australia's civil aviation system.

The Chief Executive Officer of Qantas, Mr Geoff Dixon, said a raft of instant new security measures could do more harm than good for the industry and passengers alike.

Mr Dixon said the system must be as secure as possible. It also must be able to operate with a level of efficiency to serve the vital interests of business, tourism and individuals.

"Aviation security is continually evolving as new challenges arise in what is a far different environment since September 11, 2001," he said.

Mr Dixon said the Federal Government, Qantas and the industry in general in Australia had been at the forefront of the implementation of enhanced security measures.

"This is a complex industry and change must be well thought through and sustainable. "To say the security of the industry in Australia is in crisis is wrong, as is any suggestion that the Federal Government has been slow to respond.

"Qantas and the Government do not always agree on what is necessary, but we do agree that the security of Australians using the system is paramount. We are working together to achieve this end."

Mr Dixon said the industry had to achieve a balance between its financial sustainability and the provision of safe and secure national and international transportation.

"Instant analysis after Thursday's incident could adversely impact this sustainability by adding hundreds of millions of dollars to its cost structure. It could also adversely impact commerce throughout the entire country without any significant improvements to aviation security.

Mr Dixon said:

* the placing of sky marshalls on all Qantas flights alone would cost at least $338 million and, to quote Senator Ellison, would cost the Government "billions of dollars"; and

* a full body search of all Qantas domestic passengers would add an average of two hours to each flight time.

He said Qantas was particularly concerned at the suggestion that armed sky marshalls be put on every flight.

"This is a total overreaction, and not just because of the cost," he said.

"The fact that Flight 1737 was secured, albeit through the bravery of the crew and passengers, without a resort to firearms at 8,000 feet is something all of us involved should consider carefully."

Mr Dixon said Qantas already had underway an extensive review of its security procedures following the Qantas Flight 1737 incident, despite the fact that investigations had not revealed any breaches in normal security procedures.

"Obviously the regulators and ourselves will need to look at how better to detect wooden items that can be used as weapons," he said.

Mr Dixon said the Qantas crew had reacted as per their training and instincts with great courage and skill and, importantly, the cockpit door was locked from the inside.

"All our jet aircraft will have enhanced security doors on the cockpit by 1 November this year," he said.

Mr Dixon said Qantas had moved to install the doors ahead of Government regulations and as quickly as possible.

"We are ahead of most airlines and cannot have this program completed earlier as all the doors, designed after 9/11, have not yet been manufactured," he said. "In fact, our first order for the doors preceded the design and manufacture process."

Issued by Qantas Corporate Communication (2919)
Email: qantasmedia@qantas.com.au