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El Al secure because it must be

Airline's tough methods target 'a sophisticated enemy'

El  Al has long been considered the most secure airline in the world.
El Al has long been considered the most secure airline in the world.  

(CNN) -- El Al is considered the most secure airline in the world because it must be, according to airline analysts and those who work for the Israel-based carrier.

David Hermesh, who was El Al's president when he spoke to CNN last year, said the carrier receives threats daily and has learned how to handle them.

"Unfortunately, the system we put in place was not because we wanted to, but because we had to because of our situation, and the threats we get," said Hermesh, who resigned in February.

El Al, which carries about 3 million passengers a year, has a safety record traced directly to tough security measures, analysts say.

"If you're a passenger on El Al, most likely you will be observed from the minute that you left your car or you have been dropped off ... and then you will have met the security agent before you go to check in to your flight," said Issy Boim, president of Air Security International. The organization monitors air safety and security at airports and cities across the world.

When El Al passengers arrive at Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport or any other facility that services the airline, they undergo an extensive interview by trained security personnel. They are asked several questions, such as:

  • Who paid for your ticket?
  • What is the purpose of your travels?
  • Did anybody have access to your bags before you arrived to the airport?
  • When did you book this flight?
  • During the interrogation, ticket holders also are psychologically evaluated, with questioners paying close attention to respondents' tone of voice, mood and body language.

    The information is sent by computer to international law enforcement agencies, such as Interpol or Scotland Yard, for instant evaluation. If officials have any doubts about a passenger, he or she will not be allowed to board the plane.

    Security also extends beyond the ticket gate. El Al planes are heavily guarded at all times, even during cleaning and maintenance.

    All El Al pilots are veterans of the Israeli air force and are trained in handling weapons and in hand-to-hand combat. They do not carry guns in the cockpit, which has bulletproof doors activated by a keypad from inside.

    At least two undercover air marshals are on board every El Al flight. They sit among the passengers dressed in plain clothes. They are armed and licensed to shoot and kill.

    El Al goes to great lengths to guarantee its passengers' safety because it has no other choice, said Isaac Yeffet, the carrier's former head of security.

    "Remember, we are dealing with a sophisticated enemy," he said.




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