Foiled terror plot brings security into sharp focusBy Lauren Arena
04 Aug 2017
Increased security measures at all major airports across Australia caused havoc for travellers this week after police foiled a terror plot to blow up a commercial flight from Sydney.
Two men have now been charged with terror offences after planning what Australian federal police deputy comissioner, Michael Phelan, describes as "one of the most sophisticated terror plots on Australian soil".
Travellers experienced major delays in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane on Monday (July 31) as extra passenger screening and bags checks were implemented. As a result travellers were advised to arrive two hours early for all domestic flights and three hours before international flights.
While heightened security measures are expected to continue, the Australian Government today advised such measures are strictly ‘precautionary’ and travellers can now expect fewer delays.
Virgin Australia also released a travel alert late yesterday stating:
From Friday 4 August, passengers can return to normal travel times at the airport for check-in. Virgin Australia recommends arriving at the airport one hour before a domestic flight; and two hours before international departures. There are no changes to what can and cannot be carried on-board the aircraft.
Tricia Mikolai, managing director at BI Worldwide Australia, says: “The issue of security is quite common for our team, we need to advise our clients of all the procedures for travelling abroad, especially to the U.S.
“However, there is a significant portion of travellers who haven't or rarely travel outside of Australia, so this will require them to adjust. I anticipate that many non-seasoned travellers will ignore the advice, continuing to believe that Australia is insulated from such incidents… but most feedback I'm hearing is very pragmatic—people would rather be inconvenienced but safe.”
CEI Asia understands that no major business events or corporate travel programmes were interrupted as a result of beefed up aviation security, but the foiled terror plot has hit home for event planners.
American Express Meetings & Events regional director, APAC, Belinda Doery, says: “In our turbulent world, there is a greater focus on the safety and security of attendees. Managing duty of care starts well before the meeting begins.
"We are seeing increased demand in requests for pre-event venue checks. It’s important to meet with local security teams and ensure contingency plans in case of emergency are clear.
“We are also seeing increased demand for booking group air travel for all event attendees centrally so that data on the whereabouts of travellers is readily accessible.”
Andrew Hiebl, CEO of the Association of Australian Convention Bureaux, says the real challenge is preparing for the unexpected.
“The unknown circumstance in which these [terror] incidents occur means it's a matter of constant review.”
Hiebl, who was travelling from Canberra to Melbourne this week to attend the Department of Immigration & Border Protection Industry Summit, says the events industry in Australia needs to work closely with government to mitigate and manage risk.
“The business events sector is responsible for global mass gatherings so it's imperative we communicate with government.”
According to Hiebl, the foiled terror plot and ramped up airport security didn’t overshadow this week's summit, which focused on border protection innovation such as contact-less passenger processing, and biometric and facial recognition software that can ‘scan’ people on the move.
In June, members of the Business Events Council of Australia met federal minister for justice and minister assisting the prime minister for counter terrorism, Michael Keenan, to discuss safety and security best practice.
As a result of the meeting Hiebl says: “The Australian government is now putting together a ‘How to’ guide for industry to better communicate with various departments to minimise risk while planning and executing events. We expect this will be ready in the next few months.”
To further stress the issue, this week the Association of Corporate Travel Executives and American Express Global Business Travel released findings from a recent study that show corporate travel buyers want more support from their travel management company.
The study, which surveyed 170 corporate buyers from around the world, revealed 40 per cent want more safety training, and 38 per cent want to implement emergency check-in technology. However, cost remains a barrier, along with lack of knowledge about available products and services.
Main image source: Getty
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