A Personal View expressed by Lt. Col. (Retd.) Ali Abdullah Alharthy

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An airline or aviation security key performance indicator (KPI) is a measurable value that demonstrates how effectively airline aviation security is achieving its key objectives, and identifies how it can improve.

…the right security KPIs will depend on your main security objectives, challenges and experience…

Selecting the right security KPIs will depend on your main security objectives, challenges and experience. Each department will use different KPI types to understand whether they are achieving their strategic security goals, and different departments need different security KPI targets depending on the level of performance they’re trying to achieve. However, in order to set KPIs, long-term targets first need to be identified.

A period of two to five years is generally thought to be an adequate length in which to measure progress towards (or to achieve) most objectives, depending on your airline forecasts and security achievement planning targets. For example, an airline’s target may be to double its reduction on pilferage, fraud cases or cases of drug and alcohol abuse in two to five years, or to double the number of customer baggage loss cases that are found and solved.

As a security professional or security auditor, one should be constantly trying to seek ways to accomplish your airline security goals, either by introducing preventive measures, mitigation action plans or corrective solutions.

These goals and targets may be:

  • Derived from your overall mission;
  • Related to your benchmarking, safety or security review board;
  • Given by high management, CEO or company board;
  • Set by the company audit committee, standards or quality assurance committee;
  • Based on your own historical performance.
  • There are two main types of indicators: lagging and leading. Lagging indicators are outcomes and leading indicators outline what has to happen in order to meet your goals.

Lagging Indicators

Lagging indicators don’t help you predict what is going to happen, but are very useful for informing you of what did happen in the past and what can happen again. In this way, they can help to show you if you’ve accomplished your goals or not. These are the targets that are closest to defining your mission and should be set first. In an airline (in our case), they’re typically related to customer and financial protection, and prevention of unlawful interference targets.

You need to consider what a good predictor for your goals might be. What are the processes or inputs that lead to that result? These are important elements to understand.

Here are a few examples of lagging indicators:

  • Loss of profits due to clients turning to other airlines due to increase of pilferage;
  • Revenue loss due to pay-outs for claims of loss;
  • High expenses due to ineffective and unnecessary security measures;
  • Number of customers complaints due to unruly passengers and pilferage;
  • Non-renewal of membership of frequent flyer programme (FFP);
  • Rise in drug- and alcohol-related cases;
  • Increase in inflight theft cases.

Leading Indicators

Leading indicators help you understand what you need to do in order to meet your goals. They force you to ask yourself, “What process or variables will make me achieve this goal better or faster? What do I need to do well in order to improve my outcome measure or my goal?” Once you understand the variables (or processes) you need to go through to make sure your target is met, you’ll be able to start checking items off the list.

Once you understand your lagging indicators (which help you understand if you’ve met your goal), you can move on to the predictors, which allow you to look forward. Leading indicators are different based on the goal.

Some leading indicators might be the following:

  • Increased percentage of customers that will use your airline again if you resolved an unruly passenger issue;
  • Increase in profits due to clients using your airline again due to decrease and solved issues of pilferage;
  • Increased revenue due to fewer pay-outs in claims of loss;
  • Cuts in expenses linked to ineffective and unnecessary security measures;
  • Fewer customer complaints regarding unruly passengers and pilferage;
  • Increased renewal of membership of frequent flyer programme (FFP);
  • Decrease in drug- and alcohol-related cases;
  • Fewer inflight theft cases.

The corrective measures you might consider implementing could include:

  • Staff appraisals (do you have the right people/skill sets for the job?)
  • Environmental evaluation (do you have a clean, secure, healthy work environment?)

The processes you might consider implementing could include:

  • Appraisal and consequent renewal of procedures and equipment;
  • Evaluation of relevant staff promotion and appraisal systems;
  • Appraisal of initial and recurrent staff training.

In summary, your future security performance can be significantly improved by knowing which questions to ask when designing your security KPIs.

The author is Vice President Security, Oman Air