|US begins final evaluation ahead of Air Serbia flights|
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), a component of the United States Department of Homeland Security, is expected to begin its evaluation of Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport today. Its outcome will determine whether Air Serbia will be granted a permit for its New York service, set to launch this June. According to the Serbian Directorate of Civil Aviation, the assessment will take five days to complete. Through its foreign airport assessment program, TSA determines whether foreign airports that provide service to the United States are maintaining and carrying out effective security measures. During its assessment, a team of inspectors will use several methods to determine the airport’s level of compliance with ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) standards, including conducting interviews with airport officials, examining documents pertaining to the airport’s security measures and conducting a physical inspection of the airport. For example, inspectors are to examine the integrity of fences, lighting and locks by walking the grounds of the airport. Inspectors also make observations on access control procedures.
Last November, the Serbian Prime Minister emphasised the importance of the TSA checks. "Right now the biggest problem is what the US call TSA. There are some things that need to be done at Belgrade Airport. This is something which requires major investment in the airport itself. Air Serbia is more or less ready for these flights but the airport is still not ready. This is something that we need to do", the PM said at the time. Since then, the airport has committed 6.5 million euros into upgrading safety equipment and technology, with the purchase of additional x-ray machines, body scanners, fire trucks, bomb detectors and other screening devices in order for the it to meet the TSA's strict standards.
The United States Department of Transportation has granted Air Serbia rights to operate flights to the United States with its own aircraft and crew but will decide on the airline's permit request after the TSA checks are completed. Meanwhile, Serbia is also attempting to implement one-stop security procedures, a concept of screening people for prohibited items once, at the beginning of their journey only. As a result, passengers that connect at hub airports within the European Union would no longer have to be screened twice: at departure and again when they change flights. Outside of the EU, Montenegro has successfully implemented this procedure, in addition to the United States and Canada. The measure will come into effect for passengers departing Podgorica and Tivat on February 29. However, Serbia still has some way to go until it can be approved by the European Commission for one-stop procedures. Once approved, the measure would, for example, allow passengers originating from EU-member states, as well as Montenegro, to bypass screening at Belgrade Airport when connecting onto Air Serbia's US service.