Passenger checks go high-tech
An advanced passenger background check system will be up and running at six airports from Dec 1 onwards to boost security through a thorough screening of all passenger profiles that may lead to longer boarding times.
With the new system, authorities will be able to access information such as whether passengers are blacklisted or banned from entering or leaving any country, said Nitinai Sirismatthakarn, president of the Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT).
"The Advance Passenger Processing System [APPS] not only makes immigration checks more efficient, but also plugs gaps in security," he said. The six airports installing the new system are Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Hat Yai and Mae Fa Luang in Chiang Rai. An additional 35-baht fee for the system will be tacked on to air ticket prices.
Mr Nitinai said the APPS will also be gradually introduced at 32 other airports nationwide, including 28 run by the newly-formed Airport Department.
"The system will run background checks as soon as a passenger checks in. The information will be sent to the immigration office, which will then send an alert about whether he or she is blacklisted [anywhere]," he said.
The APPS system was first accepted in 2003 by Thailand, at the time it hosted the Apec summit. US President George W Bush pressed hard for Thailand to join the growing number of countries in the pre-screening system.
Thai officials also announced in 2005, 2007 and 2008 that they were just about to install APPS, and never gave a reason why it failed.
The AoT president said Wednesday, as in previous years, that the six airports due to get APPS protection have been placed on high alert because of terrorist attacks, this time referring to last Friday's murders in Paris.
He urged passengers to be patient with the extra-tight security measures, including the cancellation of all types of fast passes.
Meanwhile, the AoT board will decide on Dec 2 whether to delay opening Terminal 2 at Don Mueang International Airport to wait for shop operators.
The terminal was originally due to open in August, then was delayed until September. The main construction work is now finished, but not all the 111 retailers who signed contracts with AoT for shops, which cover about 60% of the premises, are ready, Mr Nitinai said.
The AoT hopes other interested retailers will sign contracts within this month but work on the shops may take 60 days or more depending on the size of the stores. "It's possible Terminal 2 may not be fully operational by the end of next month. We may open anyway. The airlines are ready," he said.