Call for identity checks at domestic airports to prevent criminals boarding flights under false names
28th Feb 2016
With the rise of domestic airport self-service check-ins, police and security experts are calling for identity checks for domestic air passengers, to prevent criminals and fugitives boarding flights under false names.
Most airlines in Australia now offer self-service kiosks and mobile check-in, meaning passengers never have to prove who they really are.
- Passengers can use self-service kiosks and mobile check-in without having to provide ID
- Between 2013 and 2016, 60 people were charged with flying under false names
- AFP calls for ID to be produced with boarding pass prior to any person boarding a flight
Roger Henning, an aviation security consultant, said fugitives or potentially dangerous passengers could board under someone else’s name.
“It’s really only a matter of time before all this catches up with us,” Mr Henning said.
He said passengers should have to show some photo ID before boarding a plane.
“If they can do it at an RSL, they can do it an airport,” he said.
All major airports screen passengers for bombs and weapons regardless of their identity, but Mr Henning cautioned against complacency.
“There are items that bypass the scanners. For example C4 plastic explosive,” he said.
Between 2013 and 2016, 60 people were charged with flying under false names.
One of those was self-styled Islamic preacher Junaid Thorne, who flew from Perth to Sydney.
A Sydney court was told he used an alias to evade security services who he believed were “interested” in him.
He was only caught because his airline loyalty account was linked to his booking.
He was convicted and sentenced to eight months in prison last year.
AFP have no power to perform identity spot checks
In a submission to Federal Parliament last year, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) called for “identification to be produced with a boarding pass, prior to any person boarding a flight”.
Just giving the AFP this power would be enough to modify the behaviour overnight of people travelling on planes with a false ID…Nick Xenophon
The AFP noted that its officers have no power to perform ID spot checks and can only demand ID if they think another crime has been committed.
“AFP officers have no authority to request or demand the production of identification material to allow detection of this offence at the time, rather the offence can only be detected by police after the event, or aside to the commission of another offence,” it said.
Independent Senator Nick Xenophon said he thought the Parliament should consider granting the AFP “reasonable” powers to conduct random checks.
“Just giving the AFP this power would be enough to modify the behaviour overnight of people who are travelling on planes with a false ID and that would be a good thing for the safety of passengers overall,” he said.
ID checks useful but difficult for airlines to implement
Geoff Askew, former head of Qantas security, agreed there was little stopping people from flying under fake names.
“Boarding passes can be swapped, so the person who purchased the ticket is not necessarily the person who travels,” Mr Askew said.
However, he said effective security screening reduced the chance of a person bringing harm to an aircraft.
“Every person, every piece of baggage is screened,” Mr Askew said.
“All the security authorities in this country in particular… are at the top of their game.”
Mr Askew said while identity checks would be useful to the intelligence community, they would be difficult for airlines to implement.
“It would slow the [boarding] process, you would lose slots and the industry would lose hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said.
A spokesman for the Department of Infrastructure and Regional development said Australian airports had an “effective level of protection from threats… without requiring domestic passengers to verify their identity.”