The overnight attack on US airline security rules by the chairman of British Airways, Martin Broughton, is the inevitable boiling over of frustrations with UK and EU regulators with the once-invincible dictates of American policy makers.

Broughton said that British authorities should not “kowtow to the Americans every time they wanted something done”, and attacked inconsistencies and “redundant” US requirements including the removal of shoes and the pointlessness of requiring personal computers to be removed from carry-on luggage that can be screened just as effectively inside it.

But don’t expect an end to such petty lunacies at airports in Australia any day soon as trans-Atlantic tensions over “who is in charge” of the security fiascoes that afflict air travellers pass the breaking point.

For every patently stupid rule imposed by the US, there seems to another equally nonsensical one imposed by the authorities in charge of arrangements at major airports such as London Heathrow or Frankfurt.

The trans-Atlantic aviation security policy supremacy struggle is deep and bitter, and concerns EU concerns in particular over the invasive collection of personal data, not to mention body scans, demanded by the US authorities as a condition for boarding a flight to America, or even one that is just passing through its airspace on the way to Latin America, including from Canada and northern Asia.

Australia is a cautious bystander in this brawl, as made clear by the comments made by Anthony Albanese, the minister for infrastructure and transport, on Sky earlier today.

Albanese refused to be drawn into discussing any of the security procedures that were criticised by British Airways, but emphasised the Government’s determination to keep the skies as secure and safe as possible.

A fair interpretation of this is that the continuing lunacies in security procedures would only be unwound slowly, and that last December’s lifting of the ban on crochet hooks, badminton rackets and nail clippers in carry-on luggage was about as good as it is going to get for some time.

Peter Fray

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