In the midst of rising international security concerns, Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport offers a model for officials to better understand how to overcome major challenges.
Ben Gurion International is relatively small in size, but is considered one of the safest in the world, servicing 16 million passengers per year, and having no terrorist attacks since 1972.
Security checkpoints begin at the Operations Center near the airport, where all employees and passengers are pre-screened before they get to the airspace. All flights passing through the airspace are monitored 24 hours a day, while layers of security only partially visible to its patrons are also implemented.
Dvir Rubinshtein, Operations Manager for the Israeli Ministry of Transportation, says that approximately 10 flights per day are flagged and checked. "There is, every day, a situation where we have such concerns [about a flight]," said Rubinshtein, "and we check that and verify that everything is security cleared."
After recent attacks in Brussels, and the crashing of MetroJet Flight 9268 and EgyptAir 804, officials from 40 countries are planning to meet this month to figure out how Ben Gurion’s model can be scaled to fit other larger hubs. Aviation security expert Shalom Dolev says, “some fundamental principles and some best practices can be deployed in other parts of the world," but, he added, "It's not a copy and paste because it's not a situation where one size fits all."
The problem is that some of the security measures, such as racial profiling and behavior detection programs, are being criticized by passengers, security analysts, and civil liberties advocates as discriminatory. Last year, Israel's High Court of Justice refused to ban racial profiling in a case brought by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.
While the threat of terror is expanding to insiders working at airports, officials hope to find solutions at Ben Gurion that can prevent terror networks from infiltrating security and causing mass chaos.
When asked what makes Israel’s Ben Gurion International so different from other major airports, Dolev says, “We are more flexible, more dynamic to respond to emerging threats and respond effectively."