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Cameron Mann, Smith Detection’s global markets director for aviation, talks to Asia-Pacific Airports about some of the key security challenges and opportunities facing airports today.

Can airports ever be 100% safe from terrorist attack?

This implies no risk and this is simply not the case. However, airports are actively taking steps to improve their security and screening capabilities to close any gaps while continuing to promote a free and open facility.

The airside screening methods currently employed across the globe are broadly seen as effective. When airports and regulators work together to ensure the right technology, people and processes are in place, there are high levels of confidence that this provides an effective deterrent.

With such strong airside screening capabilities, terrorists are now focusing their attention on more exposed areas of the airport infrastructure. This has resulted in the landside attacks seen in Brussels and Istanbul.

Airports, however, have opportunities to improve the airport security without simply shifting the screening point to the kerb. 

This involves looking at putting in place additional layers of security and screening, which includes a combination of people, processes and technology. Airport security staff, of course, remain key and their empowerment to act, are significant enablers to effective security.

What lessons, if any, have we learnt from the terrorist attacks on airports in 2016?

There is more work to be done to support the development of security plans to deal with heightened threats to landside operations. This should be about building multi-dimensional layers of security that leverages on people, processes and technology. No single element addresses all the risks and it is only when these elements are considered in an integrated approach will the benefits be realised. 

Is it time to focus on increasing landside security?

Landside security operations require a review based upon an individual airports’ threat profile and what they view as their greatest risks. Moving the checkpoint to the kerb simply moves the congregation of people outside the airport terminal building, this does not remove the threat. A layered approach using continuous and random screening, human intelligence, and screening approaches to the airports are all valid methods to change the security stance. 

How does risk based screening work in reality?

Information gathered on a passenger informs security personnel whether they represent a higher level of risk to the airport. This helps airports recognise if an individual falls into a certain classification and needs to be treated appropriately.

One of the aims of risk based screening is to identify low risk individuals who, of course, represent the majority of passengers. They can be identified when adequate information exists on each passenger. If information is missing or certain behaviours are identified this puts that individual into a higher level of risk for the airport and their screening experience changes.

How has the TSA’s risk based approach to screening saved it $120 million per annum?

TSA uses Pre-Check or CBP Global Entry to capture information about the traveller, which is verified through the application process. This then allows those individuals to have a different screening experience. 

This different screening experience allows travellers to leave electronics and liquids in bags, and not have to remove shoes, belts and jackets and this expedited screening experience provides increased throughput. It is this increase in screening efficiency 
that drives operational efficiencies, which saves on operating costs.

Can you provide some examples of innovative facilitation solutions for improved passenger flows?

Kansai Airport, through the use of an integrated checkpoint solution, and Melbourne Airport, which during a SMART security trial in Q4 2015 demonstrated significant benefits in facilitation, staff and passenger experience. 

What next for airport security in terms of new technology, processes and procedures?

Focusing on each individual layer, such as the checkpoint and making this layer of security more effective and efficient as possible is a significant area of development across the globe. 

We also need to look at developing a more integrated approach on how information is utilised across the different security layers to provide a dynamic risk based score to inform the physical security screening process for passengers, their bags and staff in the airport. 

Developments are ongoing to address landside threats and having this woven into the multiple layers of security.

Are we running the risk of becoming too dependent on technology?

We can leverage technology to achieve a good security outcome. One thing the landside attacks have driven home is that it is a combination of people, processes and technology, not solely technology that will provide the robustness required to ensure that we can manage and mitigate current and future threats.


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