July 21, 2017

No evidence yet to prove items stolen at AIA – Official

‘It is difficult for screeners to remove any items from luggage’

There is not yet any evidence to prove that items are being stolen from passengers’ checked luggage when they are searched by security personnel at the Argyle International Airport (AIA).

This was the consensus given by a group of airport officials on Wednesday, during an interview on NBC radio, to address the growing number of allegations of theft in the past weeks.

In an article published in SEARCHLIGHT on June 30, Vincentians complained of missing items, subsequent to having a search done on their checked luggage. These items included chocolate, perfume, wine, bottles of rum, vodka and an iPad.

“Even though I do empathize with the customers and their concerns and we do carry out our investigations, I will say, to date, we have not confirmed any of those allegations beyond the prohibited items being removed,” Hadley Bourne, chief executive officer, said during Wednesday’s radio programme.

Bourne revealed that calls have been made to AIA this week to notify that items passengers initially thought were stolen were found in their luggage.

But he says that investigations will continue into the matter.

“If we were the Robin Hoods of aviation, as persons alluded to, I think when you are under scrutiny, you would tend to lay back and let things die down, rather than increase,” Bourne said in relation to the increased number of allegations.

However, the CEO acknowledged the concerns of passengers that their luggage is compromised once AIA cuts the locks on checked bags to facilitate the removal of prohibited items.

Head of security Keith Miller explained that once security goes into passengers’ bags to carry out checks, tie strap bands are used to secure them afterward.

He, too, acknowledged the concerns of how secure that method is, but implored passengers to have trust and confidence in the security infrastructure and personnel at the international airport.

“It is up to date; it is modern and so far it is relatively accurate,” he said.

The head of security noted that persons who screen and search luggage at the airport are not allowed to take their work bag or any other bag into the baggage holding area. He added that search tables are placed strategically, so that cameras have the best vantage point to monitor the operations.

He said that these conditions would make it difficult for screeners to remove any items from luggage and out of the screening room.

Winston Wright, manager of ground handling and cargo, explained that in terms of security, each airline has contracted the airport to operate on its behalf.

“When you check your bag with your airline, that bag becomes the property of the airline. Beforehand, as part of that contract to provide security service, the airline has given the airport permission to search said property without you being present because the airline, as your agent, already has someone present. The only exception to that is in a matter of national security,” Wright said.

According to the ground handling and cargo manager, if an

item needs to be removed from a passenger’s luggage that has already been checked, it will be cumbersome to reunite the passenger with the luggage before that check is carried out.

Furthermore, he stated that “we would end up with unimaginable delays which the airline would then blame on the airport infrastructure and then we’ll have a negative drawback.”

Wright also said that if a passenger encounters a problem with their luggage, the first point of contact should be with the airline.

In addition to complaints of stolen items, passengers have made complaints that their luggage has been searched by AIA authorities, but no form of notification was left in the bag.

But in Wednesday’s interview, it was stated that slips are left inside searched luggage to inform passengers that a search was carried out.(BK)