MONTREAL (AFP) - Travelers one day will be able to stow their shampoo in a carry-on and catch a flight without taking off their belts and shoes, aviation officials say. But not yet.
Delegates to a "high-level conference on aviation security" that started Wednesday in Montreal, headquarters of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), were seeking measures to prevent terrorist strikes.
But they are not expected to unveil big changes that would affect most airline travelers, ICAO chief Raymond Benjamin told AFP.
And the challenges facing air travel are going to grow exponentially, he warned. The number of air passengers worldwide is expected to double over the next 15 years.
"We need to find a sustainable safety system" because if current air safety measures stay in place "airports will end up seeing greater congestion problems," Benjamin said.
"The threat to civil aviation is constant" and worldwide, he stressed, noting alerts issued in 2009 and 2010.
The ICAO's response to the need for better safety measures has come in the form of technological improvements.
The latest body scanners, for example, no longer reveal details of the passengers' bodies, which for some was an invasion of privacy.
And there are security lanes through which certain passengers can move without stopping, or taking off their coat or shoes.
There is also passenger information sharing. The United States and European Union have had an information sharing agreement in effect for some time despite criticism from privacy advocates.
Broadly speaking the ICAO wants to tailor security measures to risk assessments, Benjamin said.
While the formula is general in nature, it suggests that some of the burdensome safety measures in place since the September 11, 2001 attacks could be eased in some places.
Two years ago, Benjamin came out in favor of ending the ban on liquids in carry-ons. He says now that it was a far too optimistic goal. "That turned out to be harder than I ever imagined," he said.
"A lot of resources have been poured into" making progress on security-related technology and machinery at airports. But "it just is not all there yet at this time," Benjamin said.
Progress has been slowed on other fronts.
EU countries would like to have airline crew go through the same clearances as passengers; they already do at home.
But US and Canadian counterparts see such physical inspections as unnecessary, arguing that crews already undergo stringent security clearance.
One hundred thirty countries were represented at the Montreal gathering. Some such as India, Venezuela and the United Arab Emirates sent ministerial-level envoys.
"I am upset about that," Benjamin acknowledged. "I think they are making a casting mistake."
"Europe, which is looking for progress on cargo and flight crew safety measures, hopes the guidelines decided at the conference will be put in place as soon as possible," said France's ICAO envoy Michel Wachenheim.