A Personal View Expressed by Prof. Alan (Avi) Kirschenbaum

The traditional engineering design of airports has become extremely complicated with newer technology and materials being supplemented by an increasing demand for air travel by people and goods. Today, only by incorporating process engineering principles can airports adequately function. This, however, reflects a narrow view of airports as mass production facilities where passengers are seen as passive cogs to be manipulated in a rational-logistic framework. Security underpins this perspective by relying heavily on technology to minimise human interference in the security process and particularly the need to make security decisions.

But it has been extraordinarily expensive and has also created an airport climate that has certainly not been conducive to enhance passenger satisfaction. One key reason is that airport security managers and employees see the passenger as a dangerous threat.

Nor is it a surprise that most of the security technology is designed to be intrusive with little concern for the sensitivities of passengers. In the mind’s eye of those in charge of security, every passenger (or bag or piece of cargo) could be a potential bomber or weapon carrier! Being polite or courteous could easily compromise the rule-based security systems as bending, or even breaking, the security rules and protocols is an invitation for a catastrophe.

Being viewed as a threat, passengers are treated as ‘cold nameless cogs’ that need to be dispatched onto planes as efficiently and quickly as possible. In this framework, the passenger is not viewed as a client or someone to be provided a service but an enemy.

But what if we reverse this process? What would airport security look like if we view the passenger as a client to whom the airports must pander in order to maintain their revenues and organisational sustainability? Or, as what marketers call “a valued client”. Signs already exist that passengers will delay taking additional flights and seek alternative means of transportation due to the present, sometimes intolerable, security checks.

 

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