A recent report concerning the arrest of a Nigerian man who slipped by airport security controls numerous times by using a series of fake boarding passes once again reveals the Achilles heel of airport security.
Airport authorities rely almost completely on technology and routine, but only marginally invest in employee initiative or innovative behavior. This typical pattern was uncovered in an ongoing EU study focusing on security employees and passenger behavior in major European airports conducted by BEMOSA (Behavioral Modeling of Security in Airports).
|Analysing passenger behavior in airport terminal|
But what we also discovered was that despite the emphasis on technology and following rules and procedures, many of the security employees provided a clear indication of a willingness to take the initiative when the situation called for it, even bending or breaking the rules when necessary.
Just the fact that so many did not trust the security technology was a back-handed indication they felt they were being under-utilized. A pilot study supported this interpretation dramatically as close to 90 percent of the sample of security employees felt that their managers were not paying attention to their suggestions on how to improve security.
Perhaps it is about time we started to utilize this evidence as a basis to rethink how to best invest in employees as an integral part of airport security, and to stop thinking about them as a necessary cog in maintaining the rules and procedures.
* The writer is the initiator and coordinator of BEMOSA.