Sensible Security from New Zealand

I like the way this guy thinks about security as a trade-off:

In the week United States-led forces invaded Iraq, the service was receiving a hoax bomb call every two or three hours, but not one aircraft was delayed. Security experts decided the cost of halting flights far outweighed the actual risk to those on board.

It’s a short article, and in it Mark Everitt, General Manager of the New Zealand Aviation Security Service, says that small knives should be allowed on flights, and that sky marshals should not.

Before 9/11, New Zealand domestic flights had no security at all, because there simply wasn’t anywhere to hijack a flight to.

Posted on December 3, 2004 at 10:00 AM8 Comments


Scott Johnson December 3, 2004 1:08 PM

I just don’t get why the richest country in the world is so far behind in its security policies. New Zealand was already on my list of places I would like to visit, but now it has been bumped up a notch. 🙂

Flatstrike December 4, 2004 12:03 AM

Simple Scott, somewhere around 80% of the flight traffic in the world goes through the US. It does however not go through New Zealand. Different airlines and countries have different laws, regulations, etc and as such get ‘antsy’ when we start telling them what’s going on.

Israel’s model is by far better for a security model if you’ve ever followed it.

Michael Koziarski December 4, 2004 2:47 AM

Unfortunatly, flights from New Zealand to the US still have all those crazy searches etc. It’s quite frustrating, fly to australia and you just board the plane after having your bag x-rayed.

Fly to the US and your bag gets searched, you get the ‘wand’ treatment. etc. etc.

David Wellman December 5, 2004 5:06 PM

Mr. Schneier,

I just obtained your book “Beyond Fear” and cannot wait to finish the read. In the first few pages I apprecaite the insight and candor.

I a tempted to jump to Part III, Chap. 17 but will follow the carefully laid path.

Thank You,
Dave Wellman, CISSP

Slithy Tove December 5, 2004 10:17 PM

“Security experts decided the cost of halting flights far outweighed the actual risk to those on board.”

A single successful bombing would change that way of thinking fast.

Jargon December 6, 2004 7:52 AM

While it’s true that single succesful bombing would change their equation.

But let’s consider these questions:

  1. How strict searches for small scissors and pen knifes help against bombs? Other than having your security staff concentratin on non-essential tasks?

  2. As far as I understand even in New Zealand they do X-Ray baggage and put people through metal detector gate. Which basically is all security measures that do help against bombs. Unless you happen to have bomb sniffer…

  3. If all flights would be through searched and delayed for several hours. The ‘terrorists’ would have scored a major victory. Imagine causing major havoc in totally opposite side of the globe, without going even close to that country.

Matthew Russotto December 6, 2004 3:18 PM

I flew out of Queenstown airport to Christchurch airport recently (December 2004). There is still no security on that flight. No metal detector (they have one at Queenstown, but it was not used), no X-ray or other scrutiny of carry-on baggage. I don’t know what they did to the checked baggage.

Of course, New Zealand has the advantage of not having many enemies, unless you count rugby rivals.

Simon December 15, 2004 2:50 AM

Jargon is right, we get the basic metal detectors and (I’m sure, especially on flights to the US) x-ray luggage.

I’m trying to remember what security our domestic flights had prior to 9/11. I’m guessing not much (flights on the smaller routes still have no security, it’s not like you could hi-jack the plane and fly it anywhere. I guess we’d be crossing our fingers no-one tries a 9/11 style attack, but there’d hardly be any point in using a 20-seater plane as a missile).

The presence of Sky Marshalls is a potential issue for us as the US might start requiring every airline who flies there to have them. Be interesting to see how it turns out. (My personal, very humble opinion – no way is there going to be a repeat of the 9/11 attacks, in that form – it just wouldn’t work. Prior to 9/11, the whole paradigm with hijackers/hostage takers was ‘negotiate, give ’em what they want’ – now it’s ‘we’re going to die, so we better fight back’).

Leave a comment


Allowed HTML <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre> Markdown Extra syntax via

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.