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Understanding the difficulties and challenges of passenger expectation, consent and the need to offer a robust and secure strategy for aviation security is not a simple task. At the Smart Airports conference in Munich last year Francis Morgan, Security Director at Heathrow Airport, set out what the barriers and solutions to achieving that balance are. Gary Mason reports

millions trying to educate people on the flying with liquids rules but he had tried to put a large bottle in his luggage and then argued with security staff when they took it away. This is an unreasonable expectation but after 40 minutes explaining the rules to him he went away quite happy because he understood what the threat is and why the regulations are in place. “I think all passengers underneath do understand the need for effective security just as they understand why when they get on a plane they are given a safety demonstration and shown how to put on a life jacket. Having said that I think they want to go through the security zone quickly. They want a rapid process because they have shopping to do and airports also want them to do some shopping.” He adds that it is also important to passengers that the process is seen as fair. “Passengers in my experience get very annoyed if they think they have been singled out because of some anomaly in the screening process. That’s why is someone triggers an random alarm I think it is important that is explained to them what has happened. “I think it is also important to passengers that they

are treated with a certain amount of care in the broadest of senses. More specifically they want us to careful in the way we treat their belongings and be careful in the way we treat them. A hand search is quite a physical thing to do to somebody and I think they want it done carefully and with consideration.” Probably top of the wish list for passengers,

according to Morgan, is that the security process at airports needs to be a lot faster than it is today. “Most airports at some point have a problem with queues” he adds. “At Heathrow we have a target of getting 95 per cent of people through the security zone within

five minutes or less. The bar is already set very high but I think people want it to be done even more efficiently and quickly.” He says that a key part of that expectation is a simpler process. “At the moment the number of things you have to do before approaching a checkpoint is too many. Most passengers would prefer to leave their laptop in their bag and their jacket on and of course to be able to take their liquids through.”

This leads on to the the development of better

threat detection technologies that are reliable and affordable. “Terrorism doesn’t stand still and every time we tighten the rules, terrorists do something different.”

So what is preventing airports achieving this balancing act in the way they would like? According to Morgan there are four main barriers - scale, human factors, technology and cost. At Heathrow nearly three million passengers and staff are screened for security. “That is three million people going through the same process and we know that the vast majority of those people have no malevolent intention against the airport or aircraft,” he adds. “So scale is a problem with those numbers if you want to keep the process quick and fair.” He says that while the limitations of technology

are a second barrier, the development of more reliable systems is making progress. “We have seen immense progress in the use of technology for airport security but there is still an issue in that it can’t quite detect exactly what we want it to detect as quickly as we would like,” he adds. “So you have to say we need further improvements because it isn’t delivering what we want it to deliver.” Despite the wider use of better technology to automate some of the processes required in aviation security airports still rely heavily on their staff to carry out a lot of the work. “We rely on these people to do a good job all of the time,” says Morgan. “To a certain extent we also rely on passengers to be prepared and ready to go through the security process.”

This is why, he says, the human factor, can be such a limitation on quicker and smarter security at airports. “Even within a day it can vary,” he adds. “People can be positive and energetic at the start of the day but by the end of it they will get tired. Some of our staff for a whole eight hour shift are taking it in turns to pat people down physically. They also bend over, pick bags up and do a number of other physical tasks. To be accurate at what they do for a whole

AF /January 2014/ 33

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