Airports Council International (ACI) has a different way of approaching security screening in a more risk-based manner. In an exclusive interview with Via Dubai, Angela Gittens, Director General of ACI, says airports need an approach that aims at reducing crowding and queueing.
Excerpts from the interview:
What are the downsides of increasing passenger movements at the airports as far as security is concerned?
We cannot approach the security screening regimen the way we have now because large queues and crowds are always the targets of attackers. ACI has a different way of approaching security screening in a more risk-based manner, that is, we look at the risk profile on a technological perspective to make the process better and more secure. We are looking at those countries that have introduced risk-based measures like the US which has different levels of screening.
What are pitfalls of creating checkpoints outside the airport terminals?
What we are currently witnessing are attacks on crowds and thus require an approach that aims to reduce crowding and queuing. That is why we are totally opposed to the introduction of a measure that creates more queues, such as additional screening at the terminal perimeter. The crowds outside are easy targets for terrorists, going by some of the past incidents, because the terrorists know who are their targets, whether at airports or shopping malls.
What airports should do is to move people more quickly through the systems so that they (the attackers) do not have our passengers and employees as targets. By screening passengers at terminal entrances you are actually making people a target.
There is no place for them to hide or run and they are stuck. We do not encourage screening at the terminal entrance. That’s not the place to have people standing with their baggage. You have a more difficult situation if people need to run or scatter and have luggage to fall over.
Screening points inside the terminal should be efficient and have better equipment that are very reliable and fast so that people can move quickly. Different airports are testing different equipment. There are several airports doing remote screening.
What are the evolving aviation security risks you foresee?
Cyber criminals. That’s why we have taken a special interest in cyber security and have directed that the organisation establish “stronger IT security for a stronger airport community.”
In fact, in 2014, ACI World created a Cybersecurity Taskforce with the objective of developing a comprehensive cyber security programme. Composed of airport representatives from across the world, the taskforce has been instrumental in creating a focused approach to airport cyber security.
The Smart Security project on which ACI is currently working in association with IATA is aiming to make the checkpoint process faster, more efficient and customer-friendly with the overall goal of eliminating crowds and queuing before the security checkpoint.
What are the salient features of the Global Security Guidelines of ICAO?
Well, we want a common approach to landside security. We recognise that governments get under pressure every time an incident happens and people say the government should have done something about it.
So we tell a lot of governments that they be careful as when you solve one problem, you create another. We were particularly warning about landside security that does not move the screening terminal to the terminal entrance. There should be camera systems, security personnel who are trained in behaviour detection, good communication system so that airport personnel are trained as to what to watch out for and when to alert security professionals.
Is it advisable is to outsource passenger, luggage and freight security checking and security guard duties?
The guidelines and standards are the same whether it is conducted by your direct employees or the contractors’ employees.
What is the role of the aviation regulatory bodies in strengthening security procedures?
One of the biggest things is capacity building. There are standards and recommended practices. The question is whether they are being followed. We have a training programme and we work with airports to look at what they are doing and what the gaps might be.
What are the technological advances?
There are machines that can detect plastic weaponry, dangerous liquids and sophisticated items. The issue with some of them is that can they be done reliably? The idea of these is for the passenger not to have to take the allowed items out of their bags. We do not want the passenger to have to take the computer or bottles out of their bags. We can quickly and reliably detect the items if they stayed in the bags.
We do not want the passengers take off their shoes. There are equipments that can detect if something is in the shoes.
We must now figure out how best to share information and data without compromising it. In this approach, technology will play a major role. One example is the ability to share information between all processes in an airport, which is vital to implementing risk based measures.
We must now focus on the facilitation of all of these projects, activities and technologies in order to help people move through the airport faster – or not even be in the system. For example, the printing of boarding passes and bag tags at home, saves queuing at the airport allowing the passenger to move straight through to the security checkpoint.