Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, members of the committee.
My name is John McKenna, and I am the president and chief executive officer of the Air Transport Association of Canada. I am accompanied today by Michael Skrobica, vice-president, industry monetary affairs, and Bill Boucher, vice-president, operations.
The Air Transport Association of Canada has represented Canada's commercial air transport industry for over 75 years. We have approximately 185 members engaged in commercial aviation operating in every region of Canada and offering services to the vast majority of the more than 700 airports in the country.
Aviation safety and security are at the very core of ATAC's reason for being. The purpose of your study touches many critical aspects of both safety and security. ATAC is a strong supporter of safety management systems. We firmly believe that SMS represents both a financial and a safety gain for air operators. The major carriers have now all implemented SMS and are seeing the benefits of proactive safety management.
For SMS to work effectively, though, both industry and Transport Canada need to have a shared understanding and show the same devotion to safety. Unfortunately, Transport Canada now lacks some of the essential tools required to allow SMS to fully come into play. These tools were to be provided by the proposed amendments to the Aeronautics Act, tabled in 2006. The enactment of this bill would have dealt with integrated management systems and would have authorized the establishment of voluntary reporting programs under which information relating to aviation safety and security could have been reported. This covered the protection of operators' confidential safety information from easy access by the general public, by competitors, or terrorists.
The amendments also provided for a non-punitive reporting system for aviation personnel, thus allowing employees the protection needed when revealing safety-related information. The bill also provided Transport Canada with the resources needed to adjust to its new role as designed by SMS. Without these tools, proper SMS can never be implemented to its optimal level. Ideally, the Aeronautics Act should have been amended before the new safety regulations came into effect.
We are very concerned that Bill C-7 seems to have been abandoned by the Minister of Transport. The monetary and social cost of the current security measures is significant. In fact, Transport Canada conducted a study on this very subject some 18 months ago. We have not been privy to the findings of this study, but we recommend that the members of this Standing Committee ask to see its results.
The social cost is also very significant. No-fly lists, passenger name records, advanced passenger information all have access to passengers' confidential information and intrude into the private life of Canadians and foreigners. The measures add much inconvenience for passengers. They have to arrive hours ahead of their flights, submit to more searches, restrict their carry-on luggage, and they heighten stress level when travelling.
The monetary costs are in the billions of dollars. There are direct costs to both the travelling public and to airlines. Canada's air travellers security charge is a case in point. In 2008, ATAC conducted a survey to rank the 175 security fees charged by either governments or airports worldwide. At that time, Canada's security charge was the second highest in the world, second only to the Netherlands. After the February 26, 2010, announcement of increases by Minister Baird, we believe the Canadian security charge to be the highest in the world, the international fee alone having gone from $17 to $25.91, a 52% increase. Why are Canada's security charges so high as compared to other countries?
There are also many other direct costs to airlines. For example, security measures required airlines to make significant and costly changes to their reservation systems to provide added passenger information, such as where they will live when abroad.
The problem with the existing security measures is that they rely on a cross-section of technology, most of which dates back some 50 years. Passengers are required to go through very old technology metal detectors while their carry-on luggage goes through x-ray detection. They are then wanded should the metal detectors light up. Once that process is over, transborder flight passengers are either patted down or put through body scanners. All this requires time and personnel. We hoped the body scanners were going to replace the old technology, not add another stage to the process. Why can't we use a modern detection technology, which will reduce the number of stages and the time and personnel required to process passengers?
The full-body scanners are an improvement over the 1960s metal detection technology but are not entirely efficient either. They would not have prevented Umar Abdul Mutallab, the Christmas Day underwear bomber, from getting on the plane.
People can refuse to go through the scanners for medical reasons. People under the age of 18 can't go through it either, for legal reasons. In short, we don't have a problem with full-body scanners, which in our opinion are less intrusive than a pat-down. However, they are but an improvement. They are not foolproof, any more than any other measure, and they don't speed up the screening process.
The queueing of passengers is another problem. Why can't they design lines and use equipment that would shorten the delays, use better judgment when deciding who merits closer scrutiny, and not make these clusters of assembled passengers such obvious targets for terrorists? A terrorist act at a major airport terminal would cause as much devastation and as many victims as a downed airliner.
Pre-approved levels of security clearances would expedite significantly the screening process. Why not grant heightened security clearances to officers of the law, frequent flyers, and military personnel? NEXUS or CANPASS-type pre-clearance cards would also be a way to accelerate the process.
The same can be said for non-passenger screening. The screening of aviation personnel is not a good use of CATSA resources. The U.S. and Israel don't screen aviation personnel; why do we do it here?
ATAC stands against profiling for ethical and practical reasons. Clearly, profiling would not have stopped Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City in 1995. Profiling would increase national racism and would heighten the stress level of passengers who would adopt the same prejudicial attitude toward people of a different race and creed.
Also, we are against main-terminal type security at FBOs and for charter flights. Sending sports teams, celebrities, and VIPs through main terminals only increases motivation for terminal terrorist attempts. We do not know of any incidents that could have been prevented had these flights gone through the main terminals.
In closing, we want to insist on the fact that the end should not justify the means. Security, yes, but not at all costs. We advocate proactive measures rather than precipitated responses to incidents.