Wednesday, April 10, 2013

More attention should be paid to the human factor in airport security

By Prof. Alan (Avi) Kirschenbaum*

Kirschenbaum Consulting’s recent study showing that passengers of charter flights are responsible for the majority of extra costs arising from delays in airport security checks won extensive media coverage.

Following the publication of the findings, we received many comments to which I will try to relate in this post. Our evidence about charter versus commercial flight passengers as a crude measure for gauging security costs is only one highlight of a complex and cutting edge research program carried out by the BEMOSA (Behaviour Modelling for Security in Airports) Project we were involved in.

The decision to highlight these results stems from an obvious need to reevaluate the role that passengers play in airport security. Until now, most studies of passenger “throughput” have been classical in their objective – reducing the time it takes to “process” passengers.

This is actually in line with how airports are designed, primarily as mass production units that regard passengers as passive cogs in the service of engineering design and logistic optimization.

The introduction of security technology was a natural outcome of such a perspective as it once more marginalized both employees and passengers by minimizing the need for what we know as the complexity of making security decisions under conditions of uncertainty. This complexity actually showed itself in the fact that close to 40 percent of the employees in airports dispersed throughout Europe actually bent, broke, ignored or even went against the security rules and protocols.

What we did was introduce passengers into the security decision-making process from a human factor perspective. Anyone going through the checkpoint screening process cannot but help but recognize that some passengers interact with the security employees. We noted that while some were very passive and almost automatically acquiesced to orders to open bags or leave items behind, we also noted that others acted differently, and there were those who even argued. Giving away a $100 bottle of prize whisky was not taken lightly.

All this negotiating took time, and given the practical and ethical problems involved in interviewing passengers during this screening process, we were restricted in distinguishing passengers by the type of flight they were about to board – commercial or charter. The costing was a relatively easy exercise and we simply made the association between the two.

The point of showing how charter and commercial passengers can have a direct impact on security costs was obvious. Nevertheless, the more important point was that we only exposed the tip of the iceberg in understanding passenger behavior and its impact on airport security.

This in itself could bring about a “revolution” in making the passenger experience more positive and in doing so benefit the commercial interests of airports and perhaps change the perspective of airports as mass processing production lines to service providers. In both cases, everyone wins.


 *Prof Alan (Avi) Kirschenbaum, founder and CEO of Kirschenbaum Consulting.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Prof. Kirschenbaum to present BEMOSA's finding at Passenger Terminal Expo 2013

Prof Alan (Avi) Kirschenbaum, founder and CEO of Kirschenbaum Consulting will present the findings of BEMOSA's first in-depth study of European airports at the Passenger Terminal Expo, which will take place on April 9–11, 2013, in Geneva Switzerland.

Prof. Kirschenbaum will hold a presentation on April 11 at 12:30 as part of the "Aviation Security, Border Control & Facilitation" session.

The presentation, titled "Taken For a Ride: Does Airport Security Really Work?" will focus on the results of a study conducted by EU-funded project BEMOSA (Behaviour Modelling for Security in Airports), which was headed by Prof. Kirschenbaum. The findings are based on over 500 interviews and 700 ethnographic observations held at airports across Europe.

At the event, Prof. Kirschenbaum will present a newly developed behavior model that aims to describe how people make security decisions in the face of reality during “normal routine” and crises. The results of the study indicate that the current design of airport security does not take into account the social behaviour of passengers and employees. BEMOSA results show that the processing within an airport's security framework, founded on rational and logical systems, is failing.

The audience will be presented with the reality of employee security decision-making behaviour in airports across Europe. This forms the basis for reexamining the basic concepts involved in airport security, and the alternative means that can be implemented to enhance it.

Prof. Kirschenbaum will also participate in a panel discussion on April 11 at 12:55 titled "Accounting for the human factor in aviation security." Other participants at the panel include Claudio Mauerhofer, Security Coordinator, at the Federal Office of Civil Aviation FOCA, Switzerland; Klaus Heindrichs, Project Manager, Cologne Bonn Airport and Uta Kohse, Managing Partner, Airport Research Center GmbH.

Friday, April 5, 2013

33–50% of charter passengers carry prohibited items

Passengers of charter flights are responsible for the majority of extra costs arising from delays in airport security checks, according to scientific research conducted by Kirschenbaum Consulting.

The results indicate that while only 10–15% of scheduled passengers carried prohibited items, 33–50% of charter passengers did so. Moreover, while only 10% of regular flyers were re-examined by security employees, 33% of charter passengers needed another check.

“Security has become a key cost component in airports. Passenger behavior and its significance to airport profits should not be underestimated,” said Prof Alan (Avi) Kirschenbaum, founder and CEO of Kirschenbaum Consulting. “We can clearly see that delays at the screening check point are directly related to the type of passenger involved. This requires paying more attention to the role that the human factor can have on security costs.”

The findings, that are based on a one-year in-depth study held at a regional European airport, also showed that, while charter passengers accounted for less than 50% of overall traffic, they were responsible for an additional 35% of the overall security costs.

Even though the majority of passengers pass through the security process very quickly, passengers who negotiate with the security personal consume close to 80% of the time spent passing through screening.

Kirschenbaum added that it could be conjectured that charter passengers were more likely to purchase holiday gifts and, given their lower sensitivity to security, more likely to be stopped for possessing prohibited items.

Airports estimate that it should take 20–30 seconds for a regular passenger to pass through the security screening process. The research showed, however, that it took those ignorant of the rules one to two minutes.

The study also showed that 85–90% of the prohibited items that delayed processing were liquids, with the remaining 10–15% consisting of knives, manicure files, paralytic sprays, cigarette lighters, imitation children’s toys and tools.