Airport security has been stepped up at Indian and Canadian airports as a result of the Air India jet disaster off the Irish coast, and more stringent airport curbs can be expected elsewhere. The aircraft was bound for Bombay from Toronto. Within days, world airlines are to hold an emergency meeting in Montreal on ways to tighten security.
The meeting follows two serious explosions that are thought to be the work of political extremists. In one of the worst air tragedies on record, all 329 people aboard an Air India Boeing 747 were killed when the plane exploded in midair and disintegrated off the southwest coast of Ireland Sunday.
The same day, two baggage handlers were killed when a bomb in baggage from a CP Air flight exploded at Tokyo's Narita Airport. Had the flight, which also originated in Canada, not arrived early, all 400 passengers on board would likely have been killed.
Airline security experts are investigating to see whether there is a link between the two explosions.
Reports out of Canada point to Sikh extremists as being responsible for the Air India explosion. Sikh organizations in Canada have been vehement in denying it. They point out that such action would be illogical, considering that some Sikhs were aboard the plane.
Air India has announced that all its flights will be inspected at every airport stop.
According to diplomatic sources, it is likely that the European Community, which is to meet in Milan Thursday, will take up the cry for greater airport security by calling for the reactivation of the 1978 Bonn Declaration.
The declaration goes beyond all other existing international conventions inasmuch as the signatories agree to take sanctions against any country that fails to uphold national safety standards, that harbors hijackers, or that refuses to punish them.
Although only seven countries signed the agreement -- the United States, Canada, Japan, Britain, France, West Germany, and Italy -- these seven industrial nations account for more than 70 percent of all air traffic in the world.
Canada's external affairs minister, Joe Clark, has taken the lead among the seven in calling on the other six members to strengthen the provisions of that declaration.
At the same time, the International Federation Airline Pilots Association (IFAPA) has proposed a number of reforms to enhance security. Among them:
Airports that cannot ensure safety, such as Beirut, should be avoided.
So should airports receiving traffic from Beirut unless they make provision for all flights out of Beirut to go to a remote part of the airport so crews and passengers can be brought under close watch.
Not only passenger baggage, but also cargo, mail, and catering supplies taken aboard a flight should be inspected.
All airport personnel and vehicles, particularly those with access to planes, should be subject to the same checks.
All airports should have security committees consisting of police, airport officials, pilots, and others directly concerned with safety.