New security upgrade planned for airport

COFFS HARBOUR Airport will soon have a security upgrade as part of the war on terror, but passengers could be asked to pay for it.

From December 1, all 26 regional airports in Australia with jet services which includes Coffs Harbour will have to screen all checked-in luggage for traces of explosives and other irregularities.

Airport manager Bevan Edwards said the Federal Government would fund the necessary equipment, but the cost of employing an additional three screening officers would ultimately be borne by airport users.

Currently, the airport only has passenger and hand luggage screening, which will continue.

The next stage of the security beef-up will come on line by December 1, 2008, when Coffs Harbour will have to have the same enhanced security levels as its city cousins.

This means that as well as explosives trace detection, there will also be full multi-view X-raying of checked-in luggage.

Mr Edwards said the Federal Government had offered to pay up to $375,000 for this boost, which could cost as much as $1.5 million to implement.

This would involve the purchase of new equipment, changes to luggage conveyor belts and terminal alterations.

"We don't know what the final cost will be for this second stage," he said.

"Once the new procedures are in place, we would advise people to get to the airport a little bit earlier because, initially, it might be a little bit slower to check-in."

When asked if Coffs Harbour City Council, which owns the airport, supported the security improvements, Mr Edwards said: 'Enhanced security is always good, but our concern is if it puts cost pressures onto airlines, which would affect regional aviation'.

He said airport operators may have to pass on these security upgrade costs to the airlines.

"The Australian Airports Association has been lobbying the Federal Government to cover more of these costs because improving airport security is a national issue," he said.

Because Coffs Harbour Airport has an aviation transport security program in place, the Federal Department of Transport regularly updates the city council on security issues, such as the recent Glasgow Airport emergency.

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