Qatar’s national carrier has volunteered to take part in a pilot project to give airlines access to Interpol‘s database of lost and stolen travel documents, following the disappearance of a Malaysia Airlines plane carrying more than 200 people last month.
Qatar Airways is one of two airlines – the other is Air Arabia – that have been selected to take part in the trial, which will see every passenger’s details being checked against Interpol’s list.
The carrier was chosen for the trial because it approached Interpol directly and expressed an interest in taking part, according to Michael O’Connell, director of Interpol’s operational police support directorate.
Interpol’s move to increase access to its database follows news that two Iranian passengers on missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 had been traveling on stolen passports.
In a statement, Interpol Secretary-General Ronald Noble said that while these two men had not been linked with any alleged terrorist activity, it was still a concern that they had been allowed to board with the stolen documents:
“If Malaysia Airlines and all airlines worldwide were able to check the passport details of prospective passengers against INTERPOL’s database, then we would not have to speculate whether stolen passports were used by terrorists to board MH 370. We would know that stolen passports were not used by any of the passengers to board that flight.”
Interpol said that it takes just 0.2 seconds to check whether a passport is listed on its database, refuting recent claims made by Malaysia Airlines that it would take too long for all of its passengers to be checked off the list.
‘We will always be learning’
In a recent interview with CNN’s Richard Quest, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker confirmed the airline’s participation in the Interpol trial, adding however that he believed the industry “didn’t have too many options” if a pilot decided to commit a terrorist act:
“When an individual who is in control of a machine, and is running something in his brain – I don’t think there’s anything the industry could do to change this. But I would not like to preempt the inquiry with what I think could have happened (with Malaysian Flight 370),” he said.
He added that taking part in the Interpol trial was part of the aviation industry’s continuing effort to thwart terrorist attacks, which are increasingly sophisticated, he said.
“There is nothing that will guarantee something will never happen again. We will always be learning. But what we have to do is to make things very difficult to happen.”
He also said that he believes airlines and governments need to commit to finding a technical solution to ensure that aircraft can no longer “disappear,” whatever the cost of doing so. “I don’t think there’s anything more expensive than losing an airplane, whatever the cost may be,” he said.
Here’s a clip from his interview with CNN: