Maintaining the passenger experience at airports under increased landside security requirements

Guest Author by Guest Author | Nov 1, 2018

Written by Torsten Hentschel, Managing Director, TH Airport Consulting

It seems that airport visitors increasingly tempt their fate as international terrorism targets the airports’ vulnerable public spaces. International organizations, with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) leading the way, have painfully visualized the ever-growing landside threat. In order to mitigate the identified risk and to prevent possible acts of unlawful interference, all ICAO Member States are obliged to ensure the thorough definition of any vulnerable landside area and likewise the establishment and coordination of suitable security measures. Security measures may, however, impinge on the privacy, flexibility or dignity of passengers. The major question then is how to achieve both, the sought-after increase in overall security and the maintenance of the passenger experience at the same time. A research study conducted with TH Airport Consulting reveals the necessity to implement landside security initiatives with due regard to psychological effects on passengers.

Security comprises both objective parameters and subjective security feelings of passengers. Suitable measures on enhanced landside security were defined on the basis of interviews conducted with 10 international airport security experts. Those measures had been subject to evaluation by 300 participants of a comprehensive online survey.

Security is a basic passenger need. Perceived security correlates with gender, age, type of measure and the number of persons present in a particular situation. Police patrols and general camera surveillance tend to make people feel more secure. Intrusions with regard to standard observation measures are accepted most. Security initiatives resulting in losses of flexibility, anonymity and dignity of passengers are accepted least. People are risk-averse. An approach to win customers’ confidence is the provision of uniformed visible patrols, the installation of not-too-obscure technical solutions and the allocation of information on benefits and meaningfulness of particular measures. Pre-terminal checks or veracity testing are perceived negatively while initiatives revolving around behaviour detection are welcomed.

To maintain the passenger experience under increased landside security requirements, the implementation responsibility should be shared within a joint approach led by the airport’s security and operation departments. Optimized layouts should be planned so that they provide space to avoid congestions and to facilitate passenger flows. Processes should commonly follow non-intrusive concepts, leaving passengers in the awareness that somebody is constantly watching and prepared to interfere.

In conclusion, the more a security measure is accepted, the better it maintains the passenger experience. Passengers and their perceptions ought to be in the heart of the airport business rather than being left in the dark about the existence and purpose of the security measures. 


The article was provided by a third party and, as such, the views expressed therein and/or presented are their own and may not represent or reflect the views of ACI, its management, Board, or members. Readers should not act on the basis of any information contained in the blog without referring to applicable laws and regulations and/or without appropriate professional advice.

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