New Hong Kong airport luggage rules ‘great danger’ to security, cabin crew say
Union calls for return of previous policy on the presence of passengers during bag screening, and demands officials talk to it on the issue
Luggage rules at Hong Kong airport believed to have been secretly relaxed to beat a lawsuit concerning the daughter of the city’s former leader Leung Chun-ying should be reinstated, a local flight attendants’ union said on Friday.
The demand from the Cabin Crew Federation followed a letter issued by the union on September 5 requesting a meeting with Hong Kong Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu to help resolve deadlocked debate on the issue “in the most constructive and productive way”.
The city’s High Court last month ruled, at the end of a judicial review brought by a federation member, that airport chiefs broke security rules by delivering a forgotten bag to then chief executive Leung’s daughter at a boarding gate two years ago.
At issue was whether hand luggage could be taken through security screening without the passenger – in this case Leung Chung-yan – accompanying it, and whether airport bosses had succumbed to authority and compromised aviation safety.
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The Hong Kong Aviation Security Programme had required passengers to be present for the screening of “all cabin baggage”. But the rules were amended in April, two months before the court heard the judicial review, and airport staff were unaware of the change until the court revealed it at the hearing.
Federation spokeswoman Carol Ng Man-yee on Friday said the new rules had created a great danger to security, and there was a real need to reinstate the old practice.
“Under the new rules a passenger’s presence is no longer required during the first screening of cabin baggage. His or her presence is only required for secondary screening. This is a very big loophole,” she said. “It’s not safe.
“It could enable the transport of dangerous items such as bombs, contraband and drugs. If such cases happen, who will be responsible for the consequences?”
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But Ng said the union had decided not to seek a judicial review of the amended rules. She hoped the government and the Airport Authority would also give up on any appeal attempt against the court’s verdict in the Leung case, the deadline for which was Thursday.
“We believe the government amended the security rules just for the sake of frustrating our lawsuit,” she said. “Now that the High Court has ruled in our favour on the Leung luggage incident, we hope the government will reinstate the old rules to address aviation safety fears and those of frontline staff.”
The federation was waiting for Lee’s reply, Ng added. If the government refused to engage in dialogue with the union, it would not rule out taking action involving the participation of the public, she said.
A spokesman for the government’s Security Bureau said it was aware of and following up on the requests from the federation. Officials placed great emphasis on aviation security and passenger safety, he said.
“Hong Kong’s aviation security measures strictly adhere to and fully comply with international standards,” the spokesman said.