As the federal government grapples with the challenge of improving air travel security, AirTran Airways has created a new security position and named a former Atlanta assistant police chief to fill it.
Alan Dreher, 56, joined AirTran as director of corporate security earlier this month. He will oversee regulatory compliance and security for customers, employees, facilities and corporate data.
The creation of the job “just shows that security today is more important, and it’s an integral part of the operation,” said Christopher White, spokesman for AirTran, which is based in Orlando has its largest hub in Atlanta.
Dreher, who is based in Atlanta, sat down with the AJC last week to discuss his new job.
Q: Before you took this job, what were your impressions of security during airline travel?
A: My impression was airline security did a pretty good job – a great job. I didn’t encounter any problems or any issues when I was traveling.
Q: Why did you decide to take this position?
A: Well, I’ve been in law enforcement for over 30 years. I started in Washington, D.C. When I left there I was the deputy chief commander in the downtown district in the Capitol Hill area. Chief Pennington and Mayor Franklin recruited me to come down and run the operations for the Atlanta Police Department, so I was the No. 2 person there. One of my goals was to run the day-to-day operations of a major city police department. I did that, and it was time for me to take my background experience and skill set to the private sector.
Q: What effect do you think the attempted attack on Dec. 25 will have on airline security practices?
A: Obviously it heightens awareness for all customers that fly. But we’re constantly in contact with the Transportation Security Administration. Any security directive that comes out, we’re certainly getting out to our employees and making sure that we comply.
Q: What do you think the changes will mean for travelers’ willingness to fly?
A: Personally I think that travelers welcome the additional security measures. They want to ensure that they’re going to be safe when they fly, that their families are safe. I think the flying public will be willing to put up with a little wait time.
Q: What security technologies do you think have the most promise for airline travel?
A: I think that the full-body scanners have a potential to reduce risk. The full-body scanners I think are really going to have an impact and won’t severely impact the wait time. The canine pass-bys are effective and a good deterrent as well.
Q: How would you describe where airlines’ responsibilities for security fall in comparison to the TSA’s jurisdiction?
A: It’s an overlapping responsibility. Our airline [responsibility] would start the time the ticket is booked all the way until they reach their destination and get their bags.
Q: What do you think is most different about the private sector from the public sector, particularly in the security arena?
A: I think the public sector – the police department – has set standards of policies and procedures. They fight crime and they do all the things that they’ve been doing for years and years. The crimes have pretty much remained the same. Obviously recent trends are cybercrimes and those types of things, but there’s training to deal with that. I think the airline industry has emerging problems and changing problems and you need to have your security staff trained to deal with those.
Q: How does managing security in the air differ from managing security on the ground?
A: Hopefully you’ve managed it on the ground so it’s not such a threat when you’re in the air. It’s also important to make sure our crew members are trained to deal with any incidents that may come up when they’re in the air.
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