Prague Airport Increases Passenger Safety with Detection Controls for Trace Elements of Explosives Inside Checked Baggage

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The FINANCIAL — Prague Airport plans to implement detection controls for trace elements of explosives inside baggage checked for transport in aircraft cargo holds effective May 2017.

As a result, airport Security Control workers will be able to open baggage and check the contents. The new process is, following the implementation of explosive trace detection on people and in carry-on baggage (September 2015), the next step towards increased passenger safety. The change will not affect the time needed for passenger security control.

“Detection controls for trace elements of explosives at airports are not a new phenomenon. The system has been used around the world for decades and we also use it during our security controls. However, to keep up with the safest airports in Europe, it is necessary to continue improving the safety measures and react to situations at hand. The number of serviced passengers at Václav Havel Airport Prague continues to grow and it is thus also necessary to react to these operational changes with the implementation of more efficient safety procedures,” Milan Špaček, Member of the Prague Airport Board of Directors responsible for the area of airport safety, explained the reasons for the new process implementation.    

By implementing the new process, Václav Havel Airport Prague joins a number of airports around the world which already perform similar controls inside checked baggage. Passengers know these controls from both American airports and airports around Europe, e.g. in Germany, Austria, Belgium and Switzerland. To facilitate the implementation of the process at Prague’s airport, a new secured station has been created with CCTV and due technical features. A group of trained specialists has been formed to perform the controls. Co-operation with baggage manufacturers and manufacturers of safety locks has also been set up to ensure airport workers can open most baggage without damaging it, according to Prague Airport.

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The course of the physical inspection is as follows: The Security Control worker opens the baggage and obtains a control sample by swabbing its contents. The sample is then checked in a detection device for possible contamination with explosives. The entire process will take place at a specialised post under uninterrupted camera surveillance. Detailed records will be kept of every inspection. “The entire process of baggage opening, sample obtaining, evaluation and baggage closing takes about 10 minutes and is performed without the baggage owner present. Thus, it does not influence the checking in and security control of passengers,” Špaček described the process, adding: “During current operations, we inspect dozens of pieces of baggage a day either randomly or as a target. Passengers are notified that the baggage has been subjected to a control by adhesive tape securing the baggage after the control. A note is also placed into each inspected piece of baggage with a description of the inspection and instructions for next steps if necessary.”      

The operator of the airport recommends passengers support the new measure and secure their baggage using TSA locks (marked with a red diamond sign), which can be opened using a special safety key, or other options of securing their baggage, such as shrink-wrapping or using removable covers. Standard padlocks or integrated baggage locks without TSA may be damaged during the opening process. 

The use of detection devices to inspect checked baggage is fully in line with European legal directives which react to new and modified safety threats, such as homemade explosives or sophisticated explosive systems, through improvements to safety measures.

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