Can Another Air India Bombing Happen In Canada ?
Transport Canada investigating baggage incident for possible security breach
Hassan A. is a seaman that had a falling out with his captain on the trip to Vancouver. After his ship docked in Vancouver he decided to leave and return to his home in the Middle East. On September 15 he checked in for his flight to Europe at Vancouver International Airport. At the last moment he changed his mind and decided not to board the flight. Rumour has it that some business people in Vancouver prey upon visiting sailors for cheap labour in return for room and board.
The flight appears to have left without him but with his baggage on board. Airline claims that the baggage was sent to its hub in Europe for storage. To complicate things, Hassan’s baggage tags were apparently switched with another passenger’s.
Records indicate that the flight left the gate 27 minutes late but arrived at the destination on time. Pilots can often make up for lost time by catching tail winds and varying aircraft speed. Was that enough time to count the passengers, identify the missing passenger, and take out his luggage? Or did the airline simply skip this procedure? A flight delay and retrieval can be very costly for an airline, so do they make such judgment calls from time to time? Are airlines and airport security placing too much confidence in x-raying luggage?
In June 1985 two bags were checked in at Vancouver International Airport for transfer to Air India flights at Tokyo and Toronto airports. One of the bags exploded at Tokyo’s Narita Airport killing two baggage handlers. The other bag exploded mid-air and destroyed Air India Flight 182 over the Atlantic. The bombings could not be prevented in spite of the fact that the alleged suspects in the plot had been under surveillance by CSIS, Canadian Security Intelligence Service, at the time. Can the Port of Vancouver and sailors jumping ship to check in at Vancouver Airport be another gaping hole in Canada's flight security shield?
Since the Air India bombing and Tokyo Narita incident in 1985 one would have thought it was standard procedure to count passengers after boarding and to remove the luggage of missing passengers, if any. I believe the procedure is religiously adhered to in the United States, but now I was not sure about Canada. So, I asked CATSA, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority. A CATSA spokesman told me their mandate is restricted to screening passengers and luggage prior to boarding. He referred me to Transport Canada.
A Transport Canada spokeswoman said it is a requirement for all flights to count boarded passengers before departure and take out missing passengers' luggage. She told me that non-compliance carries a $25,000 fine. She couldn’t tell me if that had been done in this case on September 15, but she said they are very concerned and will investigate. It just doesn't make any sense to harass tens of thousands of passengers with ridiculous intrusions of privacy while the most basic security measure is overlooked...