WHILE we understand the government’s proposal to allow only passengers into airport terminals to boost airport security, such a proposal would also have major implications.
Besides causing inconvenience to passengers, especially first-time single travellers, senior citizens or children travelling on their own, the proposed ruling will also affect retailers, particularly at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport and klia2.
We understand the government’s intention to improve airport security and safeguard public safety, given terror attacks that targeted airports.
The attacks at Brussels Airport in Belgium left 32 dead and more than 300 people injured, while attacks at Istanbul’s Atarturk Airport in Turkey killed 45 and injured more than 230.
Malaysians are supportive of the government’s plans to tighten security in airports because we cannot take terror threats lightly.
However, the Transport Ministry, Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) and the authorities should also consider family members, rel atives and friends of passengers who need to send off passengers in terminals.
Non-passengers are allowed to accompany passengers up to check-in counters and the first security check for boarding passes.
If the ruling is implemented, family members, relatives and friends can drop off passengers only outside the terminal.
The ruling might cause hardship for elderly travellers, children or first-time travellers who travel on their own.
There will be no family members to carry their luggage or push luggage trolleys, while first-time travellers may have a difficult time with airport procedures or finding their way around the airport.
It is also a normal practice for Malaysians to send off their parents, family members or relatives performing the haj or for parents to send off children studying abroad.
Retailers and food and beverage operators in airports will also be affected. The open concept of airports, especially klia2, is to promote shopping among passengers and non-passengers.
If the ruling is implemented, businesses will be affected.
As a result, airport retailers may have to lay off workers, reduce working hours or close down their business because non-passengers who accompany passengers contribute to the bulk of retail and F&B sales at the airport.
This would have implications on the airport operator’s income because non-aeronautical business contributes 50 per cent to MAHB’s revenue.
MAHB is moving in tandem with the global aviation trend where non-aeronautical revenues contribute to the financial performance of airport operators worldwide.
There are other means to boost security and prevent threats in air ports, such as placing more plainclothes and uniformed police and military personnel inside and outside terminals, as well as installing security posts and body scanners at entrances.
Passengers and non-passengers would have to go through security posts and body scanners.
There should also be more high definition closed-circuit televisions in and outside terminals, and facial recognition cameras in Immigration counters.
Airport operators and the authorities should discuss changing the floor plan of terminals so that non passengers can be in terminals and frequent retail stores and F&B outlets.
For instance, they can relocate shops and restaurants to a part of the terminal where passengers and non-passengers can be together.
In addition, check-in counters should be located close by, although they are off limits to nonpassengers.
We cannot afford to be lax in beefing up security as no country is shielded from terror threats or suicide attacks.
It is better to be safe than sorry.
TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE,