Wagga Airport is exposed to jihadist-inspired attacks, according to the Transport Workers Union (TWU).
A glaring absence of metal detectors and X-ray machines to scan passengers on Regional Express (Rex) flights from Wagga has been lashed by counter-terrorism experts, airline pilots and unions.
Under current security screening measures, a would-be terrorist could avoid QantasLink services – whereby guns, knives, or bombs in carry-on luggage would be electronically detected – and instead opt to fly with Rex, where they could walk on board unchallenged.
QantasLink’s Q400 propeller-driven aircraft that services Wagga seats up to 76 passengers and weigh more than 20 tonnes. Due to its size, passengers are obligated by federal law to be screened.
However Rex, which operates a 34-seater Saab 340 propeller plane weighing less than 20 tonnes, is exempt.
“These are examples of where there are inconsistencies in the system as they apply to aviation security in Australia,” Australian Federation of Air Pilots president David Booth said.
Transport Minister Darren Chester has since ordered a review of regional airport security.
Shane O’Brien, TWU’S director of aviation campaigns, told The Daily Advertiser security at Wagga Airport was of particular concern.
“The issue we have with non-screening at regional airports like Wagga, is that it represents an entry point for someone who wishes to do damage,” he said.
“You can go there and sign a package over the counter - and it's not screened.
“If that ends up on a flight and goes boom, then you have a big problem.”
He questioned why some carriers were excluded from screening.
“Who is to say that the loss of a plane with 30 passengers isn't a huge tragedy,” Mr O’Brien said.
Average flights between Wagga and Sydney cost about $220 on Qantas – which has to pay for security screening – and $153 on Rex, which does not.
Rex vehemently opposed regional security screening.
“Smaller regional aircraft carry fewer passengers than most busses and it would be senseless to enforce screening on the former while leaving 'vulnerable' the tens of thousands of busses plying the streets each day,” a spokesperson said.
“Giving in to hysteria is precisely the outcome that the terrorists seek.”
“This would allow them to succeed in their objective of severely disrupting daily life without needing to carry out a single attack.”