About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

02 March 2015

Effective Airport Security

For the most part, airport security is more theatre than reality. There are a number of articles written elsewhere on this subject, Bruce Schneier being the most prominent, so this post is about an airport that I think has got it better than most.

I didn't pay much attention to Kolkata's airport security coming in, but the differences on the outbound was certainly notable. Most notable is that quite a number of the key decisions are performed by the army as opposed to contractors. This means that the mandate that they are working with is more aligned to the goals (anti terrorism, civilian safety) than the contracted security firms in other airports. It also probably means that the level of training for the security personnel is significantly higher, so they can make meaningful decisions instead of relying only on written instructions.

Only passengers are allowed into the airport terminal itself, which is somewhat strange in itself. This off course means that the airport is not a shopping mall, and all goodbyes have to be done kerbside. Entry into the terminal requires an air ticket and a passport. The process is slow, but each passenger is checked on the match (does the passport document match the traveller , and does the ticket match the traveller).

Like the US, each bag is then x-rayed, but this us before check in can take place.  Airlines cannot check in bags until it has gone through this process; and an appropriate tag has been attached. This was one of the places where there were civilians manning the apparatus, although I think it was still supervised by a soldier.

The passenger security clearance didn't require separate screening of liquids and gels; but the screening process itself was more thorough. Each passenger undergoes a pat down, bags seemed to be scanned with the passenger, and they do seem to pick up more details. They also tag each bag that has been screened. At boarding, there is a final round of checks to check whether the bag you are boarding with has been screened or not. 

It is a massive bureaucratic process, with checks and counter checks. It is certainly not fast, neither is it particularly welcoming. However, I think it is a lot less theatre - it feels more effective. It feels like every check had a reason and that it all ties up together. It is a small airport with a handful of flights, so I don't know whether the process can scale. But compared to other airport checks, it feels safer and better.

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