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Security - A Positive Outcome

Despite the challenges of achieving consistent global standards, the Checkpoint of the Future will appeal to passengers and governments worldwide.

The Checkpoint of the Future (CoF) has moved beyond being an IATA initiative. It is now driven by the industry, supported not only by IATA but also all relevant stakeholders.

Challenges remain for this broad coalition, however. Even though differentiation is a fundamental principle of the CoF—the idea that a risk-based approach will generate relevant screening processes according to what is known about the passenger—this doesn’t mean that every checkpoint will be different. Consistent standards are essential to customer approval. At the moment, only half of the respondents to the 2012 IATA Passenger Air Travel Survey feel that they are sufficiently informed by the authorities, airlines or airports about security screening procedures and banned items.

There needs to be a degree of consistency at the checkpoint so a passenger knows what to expect, whether they are departing from Shanghai, Los Angeles or Frankfurt.

Regional differences

The IATA passenger survey has revealed distinct cultural traits in the approach to security. While a dislike of long queuing times is universal, and 93% of travelers support dedicated security lanes, there are regional differences to particular aspects of the security process. Providing personal information, for example, is a more troubling concept for Europeans and Asians than it is for North Americans.

Europeans also feel more strongly about the ban on liquid and gels than other regions. In the Middle East, a full body scan is not as readily acceptable as elsewhere.

Regional variation is seen at the regulatory level too. One key issue moving forward is the need to resolve different certification standards for security machines. An X-ray machine in China, for example, meets different certification standards and is operated in a different way than a comparable machine in the United States or Europe.

“Resolving this is the focus of some intense work within the Quad Group [United States, European Union, Canada and Australia] and among other regulators,” says Ken Dunlap, Director, Security and Travel Facilitation, IATA. “But more needs to be done. Manufacturers must have the freedom to innovate, and allowing them to produce for the global market would also produce economies of scale, making the machines cheaper. Tailoring machines to differing national regulatory requirements is a costly and time-consuming business.”

Availability of infrastructure is another key concern. Not every airport in the world will be able to invest in the latest technology or buy X-ray machines in sufficient quantity. Distinct differences between the technological capabilities of gateways are likely to remain.

Bridging the gaps

Dunlap points out that the CoF concept is specifically designed to bridge these cultural and technological gaps. “Any conflicts can be worked out and merged so the focus is not on the process but on the outcome,” he says. “We are working toward outcome-focused, risk-based security.”

The main outcome everybody wants is a more streamlined and hassle-free checkpoint experience that is even more safe and secure than today. How that is achieved becomes a secondary concern; it may be better technology, it may be data analysis, it may be a largely manual process.

Privacy concerns highlight the point. Eighty-five per cent of North American respondents in the passenger survey say they are willing to share personal background information with governments to speed up security screening. That drops to just 66% in Europe. But the key point is that data sharing will be an opt-in concept. Those passengers that remain skeptical about handing over personal information will have to accept a more vigorous screening process at the airport. But every passenger will achieve the desired outcome.

In any case, despite the differences across the regions, the CoF has received broad-based support. Differentiation—different screening processes for different types of traveler—will be an essential part of the set-up. Governments from every region have bought in to the idea. All have accepted that the current system simply will not be able to cope as air traffic grows. With some 5.9 billion passengers expected to be passing through the world’s airports in 2030—about five times as many as traveled in 1990—a new way of looking at security is a must.

“There is a widespread consensus now,” says Dunlap. “And it’s not only governments that are in agreement. The concept is supported across the industry. We are on the right track.”

The roadmap

The Executive Summary of the Concept Definition document has been prepared and will be distributed at the AVSEC Conference in early November. It lists three key phases in the development of the CoF.

By 2014, the idea is to tweak existing infrastructure to make it more efficient and more in tune with risk-based security, as opposed to item-based security. By 2017, biometric identification and known-traveler schemes are expected to be widespread enough that differentiation will become the norm. The one-size-fits-all security process will be consigned to the history books around this time. Finally, in what is known as the “2020-plus” phase, unobtrusive screening will begin to take hold. This means passengers will be screened as they walk through the airport. It’s likely that passengers without bags will benefit from this technology first and those with baggage will have to wait for the technology to mature.

“Ultimately, we will see a complete checkpoint,” says Dunlap. “But we will be getting there by concentrating on the individual components. It’s quite likely governments will have a menu of security options from which to choose. They will derive a checkpoint that suits their cultural and regulatory requirements. But the concept will still be based on a Checkpoint of the Future. And whatever options they choose, the Checkpoint will still be compatible and recognized worldwide.”


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