15 Feb 2018

When airport robberies become a national security issue

Thefts by airport workers targeting passengers' luggage in Budapest have raised larger issues of airport security.

Ivett Körösi
Ivett Körösi Nepszava, Hungary
Source: Nepszava
When airport robberies become a national
security issue - NewsMavens
Man holding suitcase. Wikicommons

Why this story matters:

The meticulous security checks that airline passengers experience are only part of an airport's security protocol. Behind-the-scenes procedures remain unnoticed. Several airport workers relied on this secrecy to steal from passengers' checked bags at Hungary's main airport.

The thefts lead to an important question: if personal items can be easily removed, can other items -- like explosives -- be added the same way?

Experts pointed to the 2015 November terrorist attack, in which a bomb exploded onboard a Russian aircraft flying over Egypt. The attack happened thanks to the help of an airport worker. Aviation terrorism experts have warned about the potential dangers in recruiting airport employees. 

Hungary has never suffered any attacks, but the government introduced a state of emergency in 2015 due to the migration crisis. Members of the Counter Terrorism Centre (TEK) and police can be seen in the city centre near popular tourist spots.

This show of force was meant to send the message that the government is protecting its citizens. Meanwhile, it turns out that where security and control is really needed, there is serious negligence.


Details from the story:

  • The first burglary complaint at Ferenc Liszt International Airport in Hungary was filed on Jan. 19 by the embassy of South Korea in Budapest.
  • In the weeks that followed, numerous passengers reported personal items stolen from their luggage or their locked suitcases damaged.
  • One of the most high-profile baggage thefts involved Hungarian Grand Slam tennis champion Times Babos, who had jewelry and perfume stolen by two airport workers.
  • Several passengers accused airport authorities of not taking complaints seriously until Babos, a national celebrity, was involved. 
  • From check-in to stowage, all procedures are caught on security cameras, except in the cargo hold.
  • According to several sources, major changes in security protocol will come to Ferenc Liszt, and police officers now oversee stowage at the airport.
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