Expatica news

KLM agrees to armed sky marshals on US flights

13 January 2004

AMSTERDAM — KLM has agreed with the Justice Ministry to conduct a six-month trial under strict conditions with air marshals armed with firearms on its flights to and from the US.

But the Dutch airline demanded and received a guarantee on Monday that a protocol will be drawn up stating that pilots will maintain command of the plane at all times throughout the flight.

The deal comes after the Dutch pilots association VNV raised concerns about the presence of guns on board and therefore urged last week that pilots temporarily refuse to work flights with armed guards. Pilots also demanded they retain command of the flight.

And despite calling for the deployment of sky marshals after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US in 2001, KLM also recently raised concerns about the scheme. But a spokesman said last week that the Dutch flag carrier remained in principle in favour of the use of sky marshals.

The agreement between KLM and the Justice Ministry will also lead to definitive regulations will be drawn up in the protocol determining who is legally responsible if a passenger is injured at the hands of an air marshal, an NOS news report said.

KLM is expected to draw up the protocol — in co-operation with the Justice and Transport Ministries — in the next few weeks. When this is completed, KLM is prepared to deploy armed sky marshals on board certain flights to and from the US.

The sky marshal scheme will be conducted on a trial basis over a period of six months and could start as early as next month. KLM has urged that sky marshals be equipped with relatively mild weapons, such as pistols with rubber bullets or anaesthetic.

The first armed guards to be deployed have already undergone special anti-terrorism training in Germany and Israel and are ready for deployment. They will board fights dressed in civilian clothing and will be expected to prevent hijackings.

The White House recently demanded that all airlines flying to and from the US carry air marshals on board and Air France has already obliged.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news