N.B. airports worry about lack of body scanners

The presidents of New Brunswick's two largest airports say Ottawa may be jeopardizing their ability to attract flights to the United States because they are not among Canadian airports receiving new full-body scanners.

The presidents of New Brunswick's two largest airports are concerned the federal government may be jeopardizing their ability to lure flights to the United States because they were not among Canadian airports receiving new full-body scanners.

Transport Canada announced this week that it is going to install the new scanners in eight airports across the country, but the only one in Atlantic Canada is being sent to Halifax. The federal ministry said the decision was based on which airports handle the most passengers flying to the United States

Rob Robichaud, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Moncton International Airport Authority, said he's concerned that airlines flying to the United States will avoid the smaller airports.

"It's a concern because what it tells us is that if only the large eight airports across Canada are being fitted with this technology, that puts us at a real distinct disadvantage as small communities and small airports when it comes to either keeping flights that we currently have to the U.S. or trying to acquire new flights," he said.

David Innes, president and chief executive officer of the Fredericton International Airport Authority, said he also is worried about how this decision will impact his ability to bring new flights into the New Brunswick capital.

"There's many other airports, including ourselves, that either have direct service to the U.S. or have aspirations of service to the U.S., and how the technology and how the regulatory framework is going to work for the smaller airports is really quite an issue," Innes said.

The machines, which can scan through clothing, will be installed in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax.

The system, tested over the last year in British Columbia at the Kelowna Airport, allows a screening officer to see whether someone is carrying plastic explosives or other dangerous items.

The scanners have sparked a controversy because the machines produce a three-dimensional outline of a person's body.

The scanners cost $250,000 each, including parts and training.

'Very, very important to us'

Robichaud said the Moncton airport has worked hard to get direct flights into the United States, especially a daily flight to Newark, N.J., and he doesn't want to see this effort grounded because of the decision on where to locate the scanners.

"That flight provides us with a direct link to the business mecca of the world and beyond, so it's very, very important to us so that's our huge concern right now," he said.

The alternative to the full-body scan is a pat-down, which takes longer.

Robichaud said his airport would be willing to buy its own full-body scanner if it secured cross-border flights.