Last updated: 01:00 PM ET, Fri January 15 2016

Airport Security Stepped Up in Indonesia After Jakarta Attack

Airlines & Airports | Josh Lew | January 15, 2016

Airport Security Stepped Up in Indonesia After Jakarta Attack

PHOTO: This August 2014 photo shows the immigration office line at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. (Photo courtesy of Thinkstock)

Even before Thursday’s attack along Thamrin Road in the heart of Jakarta, security was tight all around Indonesia. Authorities have dealt with terror attacks in the archipelago before, and law enforcement and airport security were already on high alert after the country’s police chief warned of threats last month. 

Since those threats, attributed to cells allied with the terror group IS, there has been a noticeable increase in the police presence around the country’s main hubs, including Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport and Bali’s Ngurah Rai International. This is in addition to an increased number of police patrols at ports, hotels and tourist areas. 

More security at airports

13 of Indonesia’s largest airports, including Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta, are operated by a government-owned company called Angkasa Pura II. The firm's president, Budi Karya Sumadi, told an Indonesian news service that patrols were being stepped up not only in the terminals but in all the public areas on or near airport property: “Angkasa Pura’s security officers have started to check all the public facilities at the airports, including the parking lots. They are randomly checking vehicles entering the airports.” 

Budi also said that there had been plans in place for this kind of event since the threat level was raised in December. Angkasa Pura’s security efforts are being aided by the military and police. The airports also have installed an increased number of CCTV cameras to  monitor all corners of their grounds. 

READ MORE: 27 Life Lessons Learned In Indonesia

Back to normal quickly?

 Because of past attacks, Indonesia is very cognizant of the effect that any terror events will have on its tourist traffic and the flow of business travelers. After Thursday's bombings, both the president and tourism minister used the same language to reassure people. President Joko Widodo said that "everything returned to normal within the space of just three hours" after the attacks.

Tourism Minister Arief Yahya echoed these sentiments, adding: "Such an incident can happen anywhere in the world. What is important is that we were able to handle it within a relatively short time. In five hours, from 11 a.m. to 4.00 p.m., police had taken control of the situation and conditions had returned to normal."  

Part of the show of force at airports and other public areas could be, at least partially, to reassure visitors that the country is still safe despite the attack in a busy, centrally located place.

READ MORE: Indonesia Looking to Boost Tourism

Other safety questions 

Indonesia’s airports had been in the news for another reason recently. Soekarno-Hatta International earned poor marks during a UN safety audit in 2014 and actually decided to decrease the number of flights that took off every hour so that its staff could better handle the workload. Other reports had surfaced about serious safety concerns with the way the airports were run and the organization and skill level of air traffic controllers. At least part of the blame for the December 2014 AirAsia crash was placed on the ground crew and flight planners.  

A chance to show that they are up to the task

So despite the negative impact that the terror attacks could have on Indonesia, they will also give the country’s airports a chance to show that they are up to the task of keeping their terminals secure. Since the December threats, the country has been very vocal about its new security measured.

Despite the tragedy associated with the loss of life from the attack — two civilians were killed and two dozen injured, while five attackers were also slain — this is, in a way, a chance for Indonesia to show that it is up to the security challenge and has turned a corner as far as keeping its airports safe and operating them in a more secure way. 

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