Lax Security at Domodedovo

In December of 2002, I was waiting for a flight out of Moscow’s Domodedovo airport to Malta, where I would then catch a British Airways flight back to London and then New York City. Domodedovo airport is mostly used by smaller airlines flying in and out of Russia and is also the Moscow airport used by all of the regional Russian airlines that fly to Siberia and other parts of Russia that do not have big international airports.

I am saddened to learn that two airplanes flying out of Domodedovo crashed within minutes of each other, killing all aboard — a loss of 89 lives. When I heard this news the other day, I immediately thought about my experiences at Domodedovo (I’ve flown through this airport six times). Besides the abuse of power I experienced which is quite normal in the modern-day Russian society, I recall observing that the security at Domodedovo was nowhere near as tight as the airports I was used to flying through in America. While waiting for my plane to Malta to become de-iced and for the maintenance crew to unfreeze some part of the landing gear that was malfunctioning I spent about four hours watching people come and go from the gate I was at. A couple of times, I saw random passengers walk down the gateway to the plane to see what the delay was. No gate agent stopped them (because there were none on duty!). There were no police visible in the terminal or anywhere near the gate. Passengers minded their own business and ignored anyone who might have aroused suspicion. I made a mental note to be very observant the next time I flew through Domodedovo, and forgot about these incidents until now.

In hindsight, I can easily see how suicide bombers could have worked their way onto the planes leaving Domodedovo without arousing suspicion. In a country that deals with terrorism on a fairly frequent basis, the lax security I witnessed at Domodedovo seemed out of place — especially to my American eyes accustomed to the strong security we now have at American airports.

This memory of mine begs the question, “Cam, why didn’t you say something to airport officials?” Or why did I not confront the passengers I saw who were breaching the security of the gateway? Perhaps it is because I was a foreigner in the middle of a foreign culture and did not want to draw attention to myself. Or perhaps I was still pissed off about the Russian guard who tried to use his position of power to extort $150 from me at the security checkpoint. I really don’t know why I didn’t say anything almost two years ago, but I know that I needed to tell my story about Domodedovo with the hopes that it gets others to think about the security of airports around the world.

The 9/11 terrorists showed the world that crashing planes was an effective form of terrorism, and it’s very possible that the plane crashes earlier this week in Russia were both the work of suicidal terrrorists. If this is the case, then we have a long road ahead of us in combatting terrorism and perhaps it will force the Russian public to take a closer look at the ongoing problem in Chechnya. I don’t have a solution and I don’t know the answer. I do not fully understand the conflict between Chechen separatists and the Russian government, but I do know that if the terrorism in Russia continues then the world as a whole is worse off.

Posted by Cameron Barrett at August 27, 2004 04:26 PM