Monday, April 23, 2012

BEMOSA's next workshop to focus on airport security management and training

The BEMOSA consortium will hold a special workshop in Brussels, Belgium on May 15, 2012 on the managerial implications of the intermediate findings of extensive research conducted in European airports.

The workshop is specifically designed to meet the needs of airport security professionals, airport management officials, human resources and operations personnel, providers of airport security services and technology, providers of airport security training services, public officials and policy makers.

The workshop is the second in a series of workshops devoted to applying human factors and the principles of social networking to airport security. The workshops will discuss the basic findings of BEMOSA, their implications on daily airport management and training programs to enhance security decisions by airport employees.

At the first workshop the general conclusions of the Study of Airports were presented; at the second specific case studies will be provided and discussed, especially their implications for, among others, airport security operations in general and false alarms and manager-employee relations in particular.

The unique behaviour models developed by BEMOSA will be applied to the case studies as well, and will form the basis for the development of a novel training program for airport personnel.

BEMOSA’s researchers will analyze the study’s findings with a focus on group decisions, informal social networks and deviations from rules and procedures.

The workshop will be held in the offices of DG Research of the European Commission in Rue du Champs de Mars 21 in Brussels. The event is free of charge but registration is obligatory.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

TSA critics aim at the wrong goal

By Prof. Alan (Avi) Kirschenbaum*

In soccer and other sports, we have occasionally witnessed the anguish of a player making a “self goal.” It appears that some of the critics of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), charging it with “ineffective tactics and treating travelers rudely,” are really saying the obvious to all of us who have gone through security screening. Nothing new here! So why all the fuss about how we feel as passengers going through security screening? Remember, these are politicians talking!

So let’s look at this criticism in more detail and really get down to the core of the security issue for passengers. And, don’t forget, airport security not only includes passengers but cargo, maintenance, outsourced employees and, not surprisingly, the shops and malls. But for the moment let us focus on passengers as potential voters – for politicians on election day and also as customers who can choose (or not) to fly certain airlines and select airports.

How do passengers fit into the flying game? To answer this it is important to distinguish airports as a flow-through production which has recently been transformed into a large shopping mall and hotel complex that happens to be serviced by aircraft. Simply put, a supermarket found within a factory. Despite this transformation, airport design remains based on industrial engineering principles and “bottom line” results – and security based on technology. Perhaps it’s time for a reevaluation?

As most airports are private enterprises, profits are a driving force that also has direct implications on determining how airport security will be framed. As a production unit, this has meant getting us through the security process as quickly as possible, spending more time at the shops (a money generator), and minimizing flight delays (also very costly). However, despite the rational and logical designs, passengers are still getting annoyed and angry.

But viewing airports as a service organization, airport managers would seek to attract us to use their services by making security as flexible as possible. This would minimize “friction” and simultaneously increase passenger flow with entry into the shopping mall made as effortlessly as possible thereby increasing purchases of goods and services. In other words, good business.

There is no getting away from the fact that passengers are the key component in making airports profitable. Security screening as it is today, whichever way you look at it, does not make many customers happy. The result can easily bring about (and has, according to a recent US report) a large loss of customers and revenue.

What can be done? Lots! Making the passenger happy starts with the simple interaction of security guards and passengers.

The BEMOSA Project has demonstrated that in many cases security guards are focal points for information and help, bending and even breaking the mandated rules if the situation calls for it which, in the eyes of the passenger, makes sense. It’s a difficult job for security employees, but if included in their training are some of the basics of “customer service,” not only will the employees be rewarded by more friendly passengers-customers but the bottom line profits of airports will rise. Result: happy customers and many happy airport shareholders.


*The writer is the initiator and coordinator of BEMOSA (Behavioral Modeling of Security in Airports).