The Duty Free Time Bomb Unions Want Controls On Airport Perfume And Alcohol Sales

In the wake of the Christmas Day terror attempt on a Northwest Airlines flight, two major German employee unions are calling for closer scrutiny of products sold in airport duty free shops. Highly flammable perfumes and high-percentage spirits could be used to make explosive devices, they argue.

Shopping for bombs: Critics say products available to passengers at duty free shops could potentially be used to create explosive devices.

Shopping for bombs: Critics say products available to passengers at duty free shops could potentially be used to create explosive devices.

In the aftermath of the foiled terrorist bomb plot on Northwest Flight 253 to Detroit on Christmas day, the discussion about aviation security in Europecontinues to simmer. On Thursday, the heads of one of Germany's biggest police unions and a major pilot's association have come up with several suggestions for improved safety checks at European airports. Should they be taken seriously, some of them are bound to be controversial.

The most contentious measure that Rainer Wendt -- head of the German Police Union (DPolG), which represents around 80,000 workers -- has suggested is a ban on the sale of what he describes as "potentially dangerous" goods like perfume and alcohol in duty free shops at European airports.

In an interview with the regional daily Neuen Osnabrücker Zeitung published on Thursday, Wendt said: "Once the potential perpetrators have gone past the security checks they can get everything they need to build a bomb in duty free shops and restaurants." For this reason, Wendt added that, "as quickly as possible, there should be an EU wide sales ban on potentially dangerous materials."

"The security of citizens must come before business interests," Wendt concluded.

'The Bomb from Duty Free'

In November 2006, German public broadcaster ZDF's "Frontal 21" investigative news program caused a scandal when one of the station's reporters managed to smuggle dry chemical substances through Frankfurt airport security checks and purchase additional substances at duty free shops that, when combined, created a functioning bomb. During the segment, called "The Bomb from Duty Free" the reporter later detonated the explosive device in a controlled area away from the airport, causing serious damage to a medium-sized autombile.

The head of Cockpit, a German pilots' association, also drew attention to duty free dangers on Thursday. In an interview with the daily Tagesspiegel, Cockpit spokesman Jörg Handwerg said some of the items available for sale in duty free shops should be reviewed. "The passengers have a lot of harmless things confiscated from them during security checks," Handwerg said. "But then right afterwards they can acquire a variety of potentially dangerous items." Handwerg told the newspaper that he himself had had a water bottle confiscated at a London airport but was able to buy razor blades in the duty free area immediately afterwards. "You couldn't blow up a plane with that," Handwerg said, "but you could certainly threaten the plane's crew."

Meanwhile, Wolfgang Spyra, a security expert at the Brandenburg University of Technology, told the Berlin daily that hair sprays, perfumes and spirits with a highly flammable alcohol content could aid in setting a fire on board a plane, or could be mixed to create a potentially explosive mixture. Rather than banning the sale of such goods altogether, however, Spyra suggested duty free items could be ordered before the flight or on board the plane and then delivered to passengers as they disembarked the aircraft at their destination.

cis -- with wires


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