• Thu
  • Dec 25, 2014
  • Updated: 1:57pm
Malaysia Airlines flight 370
CommentInsight & Opinion

Airlines have no excuses for basic security lapses

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 March, 2014, 4:37am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 March, 2014, 6:37pm

We need to know a lot more about the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 with 239 passengers and crew in the early hours of Saturday before forming any conclusions. But we already have reason for concern about events before the flight. Two passengers used stolen passports recorded in Interpol's international database. A third travelled on a forged mainland passport in the name of a man whom Fujian police said had never travelled. They were boarded without any suggestion so far that they raised red flags. This is a basic security lapse. Even without evidence to link any of these three people to the fate of the plane, it falls well short of the public's and security authorities' expectations of international aviation security standards. It is hard to credit when you consider that it is enough to ring alarm bells at an airline check-in desk if an optional, similar spelling of a given name on an e-ticket does not conform with that in a passport. Regardless of Malaysia Airlines' role if any in this, the fact the airline was recently fined by New Zealand authorities over boarding a passenger against Wellington's orders by falsifying a passport number raises worrying questions about priorities.

If the stolen passports had been investigated, that would have drawn attention to air tickets with consecutive numbers bought from China Southern Airlines, joint operator of flight MH370, which surely would have interested security officials. The Malaysian government has put airport security protocols under review. They need a severe shake-up.

Watch: Candle-lit vigil held in Kuala Lumpur for missing passengers


In an age of unprecedented air safety, airlines are less likely than ever to have to deal with air disasters. But if they do, they need an inclusive emergency plan to keep relatives and friends as honestly and compassionately informed as possible. In this regard families have been bitterly critical of the airline, which told them to prepare for the worst 30 hours after the plane's disappearance. Hopefully the airline has learned a lesson that it will never be necessary to apply in future.


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This article is now closed to comments

This editorial is poorly written and includes basic mistakes of fact. Whoever wrote it should be ashamed and demoted. Airlines are responsible at check-in for ensuring that the passport is valid for the country of final destination for the passenger. Immigration New Zealand operates a database by which such passports are checked, and an ALERT appears next to the passport number if the passport holder is deemed ineligible by INZ to enter New Zealand. This is separate to the database of stolen passports maintained by INTERPOL and to which the primary check responsibility is with immigration officials (in this case Malaysian exit immigration).
Further, passengers are not required to file details of emergency contact with the airline. If they do not, the airline has no way of contacting the relatives of the missing. They have to work through the relevant embassies and internal affairs departments of the countries of the missing passengers, which of course takes another layer of time.
This editorial is wrong on almost all counts and should never have been published. Whoever wrote it should be subjected immediately to an internal disciplinary investigation for his/her sloppy journalism.
Airlines are not responsible for checking travel documents against lost/stoilen lists maintained by immigration and law enforcement agencies. Who wrote the headline??
It is the immigration authority NOT the airline who is at fault. Once the passenger is inside the terminal it is reasonable for the airline to assume the passport is genuine.
What checks does Hong Kong's immigration department perform? Does it check all passports against the interpol database? We need to know.
The quality of this newspaper is declining by the day!
John Adams
"The Malaysian government has put airport security protocols under review. They need a severe shake-up."
They need more than a shake-up !
They need a bomb up their backsides, as does the Malaysian government which we have always known is much more corrupt than they would like us to believe, ever since the Carrian banking scandal
the malaysian govt absolutely don't know **** and don't give a ****. in a country as corrupt as malaysia, no **** **** gets done. they just don't know what to do, not now, not tomorrow, not ever
Immigration is responsible, not the airlines. Government is responsible to ensure that it's borders are safe and genuine passports are used. That's what we pay taxes for.
What kind of nonsense journalism is this?
What is happening to SCMP, oh my god (or oh my party ...)? Trumpeting the communist line without objectivity? Look, only US, UK and UAE check against Interpol. Look, Cathay has been fined by New Zealand. What is happening here?
Philosophically speaking human should be prepared for consequence in trying to fly when wings are not part of human body. But we still advance sufficiently and continuously to fly better in perfecting what we know and what can do, technically. Unfortunately, we can’t equally expect condition for safe flying in all corner of the world is equal. We tried with rules. And unfortunately rules for safe flying can’t be equally enforced with surety. A most advance technical achievement by human unfortunately lost in the unequal advancement in rule of rule to assure us confidently that all flying will return to ground safely.
Get this, dear editor THE PLANE HAD NOT BEEN FOUND. What else can they say other than the search is ongoing? There are several dozen reasons that people will travel on false or stolen passports and this happens every day - as many have commented here it is the countries' immigration departments that are responsible for checking. They could just as easily have done this in HK as passports are only checked on suspicion. 20/20 hindsight as usual.



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