A European Revolution in Regulation: distinguishing between passengers and non-passengers

Aircrew in general, and pilots in particular, have long promoted the concept of alleviated checkpoints on account of their responsibilities on board aircraft and their overall contribution to aviation security. In addition, the advancement of ETD (Explosive Trace Detection) equipment has allowed regulations to evolve, to distinguish between passengers and non-passengers, and to recognise the crucial role of airline staff in the aviation security picture. Charles de Couëssin examines the regulations and compares them with the measures currently in place.

One of the major challenges facing the air transport sector is finding a balance between its level of security and its ability to ensure the rapid processing of traffic, which is expected to double over the next 15 years. In particular, ‘non–passengers’ (e.g. airport staff, crew, pilots) constitute a specific category of people within airports that should be controlled differently. This is for two conflicting reasons:

1. They have the potential to pose a high risk due to their proximity to aircraft operations, maintenance and access to restricted zones;
2. They might contribute to the solution rather than to the problem, as reported by the European Cockpit Association, due to their close participation in the aviation business as well as their skills in detecting abnormal situations within terminals and aircraft themselves.

Since the events of 9/11, Regulation 2320/2002, ‘Establishing Common Rules in the Field of Civil Aviation Security’ constituted the basis of airport security controls. This framework was regularly amended until the recent 2015 version was published. In its early stage, the legislator did not make any difference between ‘passengers’ and the various categories of staff, be it a senior pilot of the flag carrier or a cleaning employee at the airport. The guiding principle of the regulation relied on the principle that the zones through which persons and/or baggage move before boarding should be considered as critical parts of a security-restricted area.

Based on the legislation, the notion of ‘restricted areas’ applies to zones where only screened passengers and baggage have access as well as where aircraft are parked before boarding or goods are loaded. These zones are separated from landside activities, and airside/landside boundaries need to be established between the two zones to ensure their physical separation.

The concept of ‘access control’ defines the procedure by which all persons are screened before being allowed to proceed into restricted areas. Moreover, they are required to ‘have a legitimate reason to be there’, which means carrying proof of authorisation such as a boarding card (passengers) or an identification card (staff). These must be checked before being granted access to security-restricted areas in order to reasonably ensure that the document (e.g. boarding card) is valid and corresponds to the holder (staff or crew).

In order to prevent unauthorised access to security restricted areas, access points must be controlled either by an electronic system (presenting a ‘logical obstruction’) or by authorised persons (a ‘physical obstruction’). Credentialing is the key process by which an employee is visually (or better, electronically) authenticated and granted unescorted access to secure and sterile areas. Credentialing involves several major sub-processes:

– Determining the holder’s identity through scrutiny of official identity documents;
– Ensuring a regulatory clearance process to determine if the applicant is qualified for airport activities and related access to secure areas;
– Conducting airport-specific security training of security procedures.