El Al - The World's Most Secure Airline

El Al Israel Airline

The aviation industry in the 21st century has been reshaped by constant threats of terror, giving a whole new meaning to security in aviation. The terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre in New York City created awareness on the grave importance of airline and airport security. After the disaster, many airlines and airport operators started scrambling for effective and efficient aviation security systems. It was during this period where the legendary Israeli airlines, El Al, became synonymous with aviation security. Hundred of aviation companies around the world sought to emulate El Al’s high standards of security.

1. Checking in with El Al

  • All passengers to report at the check-in counter at least 3 hours prior to departure
  • Additional hour (compared to the standard 2 hours) is required to make up for the thorough screening process

2. Security at Ben Gurion Airport (El Al's main hub)

  • Terminals are closely monitored on Closed Circuit Television (CCTV)
  • Fully armed guards, police officers as well as officers in plain clothes patrol the premises of the terminals,
  • Cars are prevented from making more than momentary stops to dispatch and unload passengers and luggage

3. At the Check-in Counters

  • El Al interestingly enough has its own set of pre-flight questions for passengers
  • El Al’s security officials routinely question passengers on their personal background and their travel plans and have no compunctions in profiling passengers based on these questions
  • Staff run the passenger’s travelling details through a computerised system that picks out details that can be deemed suspicious
  • Close watch on passengers whom have paid for their tickets in cash, those travelling on one-way tickets, mailing and billing addresses that do not match, whether or not the passenger chose to make multiple stops rather than a direct flight, etc.
  • Passenger names are checked for background information, previous criminal history as well as blacklists furnished by intelligence units from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Interpol, Shin Bet (Israel’s Intel unit), Scotland Yard and the CIA
  • Passengers’ profiles are created based on a highly controversial system where all passengers’ details such as home phone numbers, birthdates, addresses, change of reservations and even meal preferences are run through a database of terror suspects and ‘no fly lists’ that would flag the passenger according to the degree of threat that he or she poses

4. Baggage Screening

  • Swabs are taken of carry-on luggage and examined using hi-tech bomb sniffers
  • Hi-tech liquid explosive detecting devices on passengers’ personal belongings both check in and carry-on
  • Checked luggage is stored in a secure room that's constantly guarded by El Al personnel
  • All baggage and cargo also go through a decompression chamber on the ground (simulates pressure in the cargo compartment during flight to test for bombs set to go off at high altitudes)

5. Air Marshal

  • Air Marshals are known to be armed plain-clothes security officers whom are trained in unarmed combat, special tactics and rescue procedures. Detect and extinguish security threats that occur in-flight.
  • El Al has made it a policy for at least one air marshal to be on board all El Al flights.

6. Fortified cockpit and floors

  • Fortified double cockpit doors that are lined with Kevlar and proven to be bullet resistant.
  • The double door system allows only one door to be open at one time.
  • The doors are code locked and the door that gives access to the cockpit can only be open with authorisation from a member of the flight deck.
  • Reinforced steel flooring separating the passenger cabin area from the baggage hold area that would serve as a layer of protection in the case of an explosion

7. Flight Guard (infrared measures)

  • All aircraft are equipped with infrared countermeasures via a system called ‘Flight Guard’.
  • Flight Guard was developed by Israeli Aerospace Industries to defend El Al’s aircraft against surface to air missiles.
  • Basic military flare system that would project flares in the wake of the aircraft causing any missiles to detonate a considerable distance away from the aircraft’s tail

1. Schwartz, Nelson. (2002). Learning from Israel.. Fortune; 1/21/2002, Vol. 145 Issue 2, p94-102

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