Published January 25, 2011
PRAGUE – Authorities in Ukraine and the Czech Republic they were beefing up airport security measures in the wake of the suicide attack in Moscow.
In most countries, however, authorities said current airport security measures were sufficient to deal with possible threats.
In Prague, police spokeswoman Barbora Kudlackova said more officers would be on duty at Prague's Ruzyne airport, and they would be bolstered with sniffer dogs and sharpshooters.
In Ukraine, airport spokeswoman Oksana Ozhogova said additional Interior Ministry troops had been deployed at Kiev's Boryspil Airport. Police with sniffing dogs also were randomly checking passengers and their luggage for possible explosives.
Analysts say Monday's attack at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport may prompt a reevaluation of how to protect airport terminals but it was unlikely to result in tougher long-term security measures.
Security experts have warned is virtually impossible to screen the large crowds that gather at airports' public areas — especially arrival terminals — because many airports have been turned into commercial centers, with shops, food courts, train stations and other facilities.
"Airport security needs to be thorough but it also needs to be rational, and the truth is that we can never make any airport totally impervious to attack," said Patrick Smith, a commercial airline pilot and aviation author. "Like any crowded public space, be it a subway station or a shopping mall or a football stadium, an airport will always have inherent vulnerabilities."
Monday's attack at Domodedovo's international arrivals area killed 35 people and wounded 180.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, the main goal of airport security has been to keep bombs and bombers off of planes. Airports themselves were not considered a high priority target.
Most airports in the West don't restrict access to the terminals, which are considered public areas. Security screening only takes place once the passengers enter the departure areas.
But in some countries, like Israel, Jordan or Pakistan, police set up roadblocks several miles (kilometers) from the airport to prescreen arriving passengers and others picking up passengers before allowing them to proceed.
Analysts said the Domodedovo attack appeared to be the first time terrorists have tried to exploit unrestricted public access to the terminals since the failed 2007 bombing of Glasgow Airport in Scotland. Attackers there tried to crash a Jeep loaded with explosives through the airport's entrance doors but the bomb did not go off.
Philip Baum, editor of Aviation Security International, a London-based publication dedicated to security issues, said expanding an airport's security perimeter as in Tel Aviv was desirable but would be difficult to replicate in Europe or the United States.
"So many of our airports now are commercial enterprises which have to maximize their earnings," he said. "They have food courts, shopping centers, train stations all located together, and any effort to control access would have a major impact on the airport's bottom line."
Domodedovo Airport closed down temporarily after the blast but then reopened after only 20 minutes — an interval that would have been unheard-of in the West. Many air crews and passengers in its secure departure and arrival areas at the time were not even aware of the blast.
Pilots said this underscored the dilemma in securing such transport hubs — which by definition attract large numbers of people — while simultaneously keeping them accessible to the public.
AP Aviation Writer Slobodan Lekic reported from Brussels.