Screening for one?

Recent terrorist threats have led to a review of security at regional airports, with calls for mandatory screening everywhere. Currently aircraft carrying less than 20,000 kg are exempt. This has led to some anomalies with airports such as Wagga Wagga screening passengers flying on QantasLink to Sydney but not those travelling with Regional Express (Rex). Then there is the case of Lord Howe, where tourists are screened on their way out of Sydney and Brisbane but not on the return flight. The likelihood of them obtaining a weapon on Lord Howe and launching an attack is as remote as the island.

Rex, the largest regional carrier, estimates the operational cost of screening at $750,000 per annum at each location. With communities already complaining about the higher costs of regional travel, it is hard to see how these costs could be absorbed. Some airports have less than one flight a day, stopping for a handful of people and cargo. Rex state that it is senseless to enforce screening on a small number of air passengers but not on the thousands of people who travel by bus. Packed commuter trains in large cities are more vulnerable to potential terrorist attacks than small aircraft flying between rural communities.

Regional aviation has improved substantially in recent years, with Rex, JetGo, Fly Pelican Skytrans, Alliance, and Fly Corporate, adding new routes. Imposing further costs will jeopardise this growth. Is that a greater risk than the possibility of a terrorist attack?

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