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5 October 2021

Case Study: United Airlines' Aviation Security Culture

Security awareness and the promotion of security culture is very important to United Airline's employees, especially since being directly affected by the tragic events of 11 September 2001. Therefore, the organization has not had much difficulty developing and maintaining security awareness internally. However, due to the willingness of employees to play an active role in securing their workplace, efforts had to be made to provide avenues for security information to be collected, processed and analyzed.

As senior leadership is committed to assuring a safe and secure environment for all customers and employees, an opportunity arose to learn from reported deficiencies. Therefore, United Airlines developed its Security Incident Review Committee (SIRC) where it can regularly interact with frontline employee groups to discuss security issues and incidents. The Committee's goal is to avoid assigning blame to responsible parties to the extent possible, but rather to try to identify the immediate cause as well as the root cause. Although this program is based on similar efforts implemented on the safety front, the nature of security incidents has led to differences in the program, mainly revolving around the ability to always maintain the confidentiality of all parties.

The successes achieved through the SIRC, combined with the unique nature of security incidents involving passengers, led to the creation of additional review committees involving passenger assaults on airline employees, assaults between passengers, and flight diversions resulting from passenger disturbances.

All these committees have not only led to an enhanced security culture, but also a general understanding by all frontline employees that:

  • Senior leadership wants to make everyone's workplace safer
  • Everyone can contribute to achieving this goal
  •  Everyone has a key role to play in finding long-term sustainable solutions to counter security threats faced by the organization.

Download the full United Airlines aviation security culture case study (pdf) 

Want to learn more about aviaiton security?


Find this case study and the latest on aviation Security Management Systems in the IATA SeMS Manual. By applying the principles from the manual, it can enhance a company’s security culture, regulatory collaboration and resource utilization as well as improve overall performance and communication within a company. It contains security management guidelines on building effective aviation security measures and also covers a range of additional topics including accountabilities and responsibilities assignment, risk assessment, security reporting and improved communication processes.

You can also learn more about aviation security here.

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