Aviation security must improve: Deputy PM

Vietnam's civil aviation security needs to improve in the next five years to avoid mistakes that could lead to a tragedy, Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai said on December 23.

Countries world-wide are now tightening their civil aviation security more than ever, and Vietnam should not be an exception, Hai said at a meeting to summarise the five-year programmes of civil aviation security run by the National Civil Aviation Security Committee under the Ministry of Transport.

The committee was required to make provisions against foreseeable problems of civil aviation security in the coming time, Hai said.

"Although the country's civil aviation security sector has assured absolute safety for passengers over the past 17 years, it cannot afford to make any mistake related to aviation security in the future," he said.

Because any error, even small ones, could have catastrophic results for all of us, he said.

Therefore, Hai ordered the committee to constantly update the top-priority list of issues that could pose threats to the civil aviation security. The move aims to keep up absolute safety for passengers in the coming time, he said.

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Hai also expressed his concerns over passengers, who ignored regulations of civil aviation security.

His concerns came after the number of passengers accessing aviation services has grown, but many did not know about the regulations. Boosting the dissemination of rules was thought to be a solution, he said.

Lastly, Hai said the ministry should quickly propose that the Government joins the Beijing Convention and Protocol on Aviation Security.

Speaking at the meeting, Minister of Transport Dinh La Thang recognised the results of the committee achieved over the past 17 years.

However, he pointed out shortcomings including inadequate infrastructure, a lack of lighting systems and security camera systems and poor supervision of the unloading of luggage and goods causing loss for passengers; poor co-operation between authorised agencies and aviation forces led to goods smuggling and fraud.

Thang said the committee had to improve the infrastructure; re-train its staff, especially, staff supervising of the unloading of luggage and goods to end this problem; and closely work with authorised agencies to end these situations.

Statistics showed that the aviation committee had stopped 500 passengers attempting to carry weapons on planes, 40 rumours spread about bombs or explosives on planes and 142 passengers violating aviation-security regulations and threatening security staff during the 2011 to 2015 period.

The average growth rate of the aviation sector between 2009 to 2014 was 14% in carrying passengers and 18% in carrying goods.

HCM City airport

HCM City's Tan Son Nhat International Airport and airlines have begun to implement decongestion measures to cope with the expected rush during Lunar New Year in early February.

The airport will increase the number of flights from 660 to 689 during the busiest days.

According to the Airports Corporation of Vietnam (ACV), this year the airport served around 26 million passengers though the 25-million mark was only expected to be reached in 2020.

So the airport is often overloaded during peak hours and aircraft have to fly around before landing.

"A series of new routes has just been added and more aircrafts have come, but the infrastructure is overloaded," a spokesman for an airline said.

The year-end weather is often worse than at other times and that too is expected to impact flights.

"To improve the situation, Tan Son Nhat Airport is expanding parking bays and runways and adding security-check counters," Nguoi Lao Dong (The Labourer) newspaper quoted Dang Tuan Tu, director of HCM City's Tan Son Nhat International Airport Authority, as saying.

"We opened more taxi counters on December 23, doubling the capacity to serve customers."

All airlines have reviewed their operations, including flight timings and technical management, and discussed improving efficiency with airport and ground services operators.

Check-in counters are now closed 40 minutes before take-off.

Vietnam Airlines is reviewing and setting up leaner operations.

"Vietnam Airlines has adopted information technology to save time for passengers and ensure flights leave in time," a spokesperson said.

This Lunar New Year will see Vietjet Air operate 250 flights a day.

"Our human resources and equipment have been well arranged for Lunar New Year," a spokesman for the carrier said.

"Roads to Tan Son Nhat Airport can get congested at any time and aviation procedures might take longer due to crowds, and so customers should be at the airport three to four hours before their flights."

Authorities also suggested that the number of relatives and friends accompanying passengers to the airport should be reduced.