Prague Airport (IATA: PRG) has announced it is to introduce swab checks for trace elements of explosives inside hold baggage. As a result, from May 2017 airport security workers will be able to open baggage and check the contents. The change will not affect the time passengers need to pass through security checkpoints.
Milan Špaček, from the Prague Airport Board of Directors, explained: “Detection controls for trace elements of explosives at airports are not a new phenomenon. The system has been used around the world for decades and we also use it during our security controls. However, to keep up with the safest airports in Europe, it is necessary to continue improving the safety measures and react to situations at hand. “The number of serviced passengers at Václav Havel Airport Prague continues to grow and it is thus also necessary to react to these operational changes with the implementation of more efficient safety procedures.”
To facilitate Prague’s new procedure, a CCTV-covered secure area has been built.
The airport says a group of specially trained staff has been formed to perform the checks which, through co-operation with baggage and lock manufacturers, should ensure airport workers can open most bags without damaging them.
The process involves a security staff worker opening a bag and obtaining a sample by swabbing its contents. The sample is then checked in a detection device for possible contamination with explosives. The airport says the entire process will take place “under uninterrupted camera surveillance” and that “detailed records will be kept of every inspection.”
Mr Špaček added: “The entire process of opening the bag, taking a sample, evaluating it and closing the bag takes about ten minutes and is performed without the bag’s owner being present. Thus, it does not affect the passengers’ check-in or security control.”
Passengers are notified that their bag has been opened and checked by an application of adhesive tape applied after the search is completed. A note is also placed inside each inspected piece of baggage with a description of the inspection and instructions for any next steps that might be required.
The airport is recommending that passengers support the new measure by either securing their baggage using TSA-certified locks (marked with a red diamond sign), which can be opened using a special safety key, or via other options such as shrink-wrapping or using removable covers. It added that standard padlocks or integrated baggage locks might be damaged during the opening process.