Higher security after terror threat further squeezes airline industry

Heightened airport security after a botched terrorist attack on Christmas Day means one more cost for an airline industry that’s already experiencing considerable turbulence.

Heightened airport security after a botched terrorist attack on Christmas Day means one more cost for an airline industry that’s already experiencing considerable turbulence.

Consumers will likely be the ones to bear the brunt of the additional expenses, said John McKenna, president and chief executive officer of the Air Transport Association of Canada.

“Any time there are new security measures of any type, the travelling public pays for it,” McKenna said.

After Friday’s attempted attack aboard a Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines flight, travellers now face a pat-down by security agents as well as tougher restrictions on what they are allowed to take on the plane.

Bags with wheels are no longer being allowed as a carry-on, and only one bag per traveller can be taken on the plane.

The secondary checks can take up to five minutes per person. That could add up to a delay of several hours for each flight if more employees aren’t brought in.

“If you add the people, you add costs. And these costs will have to be paid for by somebody,” said McKenna.

“If they are permanent measures, this clearly costs the airlines and the travelling consumer a lot more money.”

In Canada, Transport Minister John Baird requested help from the RCMP on Sunday night, and the Mounties helped provide additional screening security at Canada’s largest airports on Monday.

Transport Canada employees were also been called in on overtime for what was supposed to be a federal holiday to deal with the extra security needs.

For WestJet Airlines Ltd. (TSX:WJA), a Calgary-based carrier, tallying the added costs is not a “primary focus” at the moment, said spokesman Robert Palmer.

“We are focused on our guests and their experience,” Palmer said.

He recalled that airlines struggled a year ago with an onslaught of snowstorms that snarled air traffic at the height of the holiday rush.

“In some ways, this is not dissimilar to last Christmas, when we went above and beyond to help our guests get home for the holidays,” Palmer said.

McGill University professor Karl Moore said he doesn’t believe air travel will be affected significantly during this holiday period because most consumers will already be committed to their travel plans and will adapt.

“It will get back to normal, or the new normal, with a few more restrictions,” said Moore, who noted that passengers are already used to taking off their shoes and belts and having liquid bottles checked.

“Travel is not fun in the way it used to be 15 years ago,” Moore said.

“What we will see is a little bit of a slowdown but I think the restrictions will ease over time,” said Moore, who teaches globalization and management in McGill’s Desautels Faculty of Management.

Moore said Air Canada in particular may actually see a bit of an increase in traffic as a result with travellers being able to choose international routes and connecting flights that avoid the United States.

“The more difficult it is to fly through the U.S., Canada gains a little bit from that.”

A number of travellers at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport said over the holiday weekend that they were impressed with the way Air Canada handled the new security measures.

Stock in WestJet, Jazz Air Income Fund (TSX:JAZ.UN) and Montreal-based travel company Transat AT Inc. (TRZ.B0 felt a downdraft Tuesday in the first trading since Friday’s attempted bombing.

WestJet dropped 17 cents or 1.4 per cent to $12.29 while Jazz, a former Air Canada subsidiary that’s now a separate airline company, dropped 13 cents or 2.9 per cent to $4.30 and Transat (TSX:TRZ.B) slipped 20cents to $21.

Air Canada (TSX:AC.B) was unchanged at $1.25.

In the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, airline travel fell dramatically around the world and led to billions of dollars in losses for the global airline sector.

Earlier this month, The International Air Transport Association revised its financial outlook for 2010 to an expected US$5.6 billion global net loss, larger than the previously forecast loss of $3.8 billion. However, passenger traffic is expected grow by 4.5 per cent in 2010.

For this year, the airline research group maintained its forecast of a $11 billion net loss.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, of Nigeria was charged Saturday with trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight as the plane approached Detroit on Christmas Day. He’s accused of igniting an explosive substance hidden in his pants. An al-Qaida group claimed responsibility for the attempt on Monday.

— with files from LuAnn LaSalle in Montreal

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes part in a press conference during the COVID pandemic in Ottawa, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau Liberals face confidence vote over proposed anticorruption committee

Bloc Quebecois plans to support the Conservative motion

A bottle of hand sanitizer is seen in Vancouver on October 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Experts say counterfeit hand sanitizer recall at Dollarama is a lesson for retailers

Fraudulent version may not be effective at killing bacteria and viruses

George Orme, owner of Jacques-Orme Funeral Home, and Dr. Henry George are seen with the city’s first ambulance at the Red Deer Exhibition around 1925. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Archives)
Michael Dawe: Red Deer’s first ambulances were also used as hearses

There has been a great deal of media attention in recent weeks… Continue reading

Manitoba skip Tracy Fleury releases a rock as they play Ontario at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts at Centre 200 in Sydney, N.S. on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. Fleury has brought on veteran skip Sherry Middaugh to serve as coach of the Winnipeg-based team. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Team Tracy Fleury adds longtime skip Sherry Middaugh as coach

Previously coached at the U18 and U21 levels

The main entrance to the Museums Island and the Neue Museum, left, in Berlin, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. A large number of art works and artifacts at some of Berlin’s best-known museums were smeared with a liquid by an unknown perpetrator or perpetrators earlier this month, police said Wednesday. The ‘numerous’ works in several museums at the Museum Island complex, a UNESCO world heritage site in the heart of the German capital that is one of the city’s main tourist attractions, were targeted between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Oct. 3, police said. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Over 60 exhibits damaged at Berlin museums, motive a mystery

Surveillance camera footage doesn’t show obvious signs of anyone applying the liquid

FILE - This Aug. 13, 2020 photo shows a logo for Netflix on a remote control in Portland, Ore. Netflix Inc. (NFLX) on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020 reported third-quarter net income of $790 million. The Los Gatos, California-based company said it had profit of $1.74 per share. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)
Netflix reports a summer slump in subscriber growth

Added 28 million subscribers in the first nine months of the year

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw warms up before Game 1 of the baseball World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Kershaw, LA stars shine, Dodgers top Rays 8-3 in WS opener

Kershaw, LA stars shine, Dodgers top Rays 8-3 in WS opener

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford leaps over a challenge by PSG's Presnel Kimpembe during the Champions League group H soccer match between Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United at the Parc des Princes in Paris, France, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Man United wins again at PSG; Messi scores in Barca rout

Man United wins again at PSG; Messi scores in Barca rout

Most Read