It is always a miracle when plans are actually implemented and even more astonishing if they work. The evidence we have is that they rarely do so.
The new security plan announced by Gatwick Airport calling for speedier passage by providing more “lanes” for passenger flow is a typical engineering solution. These solutions have been used for toll bridges, tunnels and highways for years and now we have them at airports.
|Security area in South Terminal|
Underneath the “make passengers happy” mantra is the aim to increase passenger flow and reduce waiting time. Absolutely great ideas, except that passengers have a way of not following the rules. And it is here that the idea that 5,000 passengers per hour will happily move along through the multi-colored security lanes according to the engineering tune falls apart.
The assumptions made about us as passengers (note: not people) – in what airport managers think of as a mass production factory – disregard the basic variety of behaviors associated with individuals, family units and groups that are thrust into an unfamiliar high risk security environment where threats are made every day.
By leaving the choice of “lane” open to the discretion of the passenger, and basing that choice on media instructions, is one of many fatal flaws in what could have been a better human factor-designed security system.
To make sure 5,000 people get through the security screening every hour assumes everyone is a good and well-informed citizen – an assumption that totally ignores the reality of people’s behaviors.
What is even more disturbing is that it ignores the reality of what happens every day at airports between security employees and passengers.
One more thing, while adding more color-coded lanes is commendable: what if I’m color blind?
*The writer is the initiator and coordinator of BEMOSA (Behavioral Modeling of Security in Airports).