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Communication and preparation key to managing busy security screening checkpoints

By: Nermeen Khalil
June 22, 2016

Keeping the flow of passengers moving swiftly through security screening is a challenge for any major airport. Preparation for expected heavy travel days, however, can go a long way in allowing everyone to get where they need to be and on time.

The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) contracts GardaWorld to provide airport security screening in the Prairies and Central regions, which includes such major cities as Toronto, Ottawa and Calgary. Yearly events such as the Christmas holiday travel season and the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games brings challenging times to our Resource team as the security checkpoints are filled with a significant increase in passengers loads, all anxious to get to their destinations with minimal delay.

Communication before and during event. The first step in preparing for expected heavy travel season is solid communication between all parties, such as GardaWorld, CATSA and all-involved airlines. A delay at airline check-in, for example, can throw off the flow of travelers at other locations, including security checkpoints. It is important to ensure those lines of communication remain open throughout the day as well, allowing all parties the flexibility they need to react when something deviate from the original plan.

Preparation for contingencies. The Resource team at GardaWorld has a wide experience with busy security screening checkpoints and has built its own contingency plans to ensure maximum efficiency in peak times. As things are constantly in a state of flux, GardaWorld is well-prepared to react to a variety of different scenarios smoothly and without any disruption to travelers.

The number of expected passengers throughout the day is one of the most crucial pieces of information the Resource team takes into account during preparations. Using state of the art technology, GardaWorld’s resource experts map out a best case scenario to process all passengers, assuming they arrive and depart as scheduled. And should that best case scenario breaks down, GardaWorld is ready to adjust on the fly with proper deployment of manpower.

Application of manpower. GardaWorld does not control delays at airline counters, much less the arrivals of inbound flights. However, what it can do is allotting extra employees at the proper locations.

Perhaps the most challenging event has been the recent Pan Am and Parapan Am Games, which resulted in Toronto’s airport – already Canada’s busiest – smoothly processing a record 67,000 passengers in a single day. But the sheer number of people was only half the challenge. Many athletes were booked on short notice, and they were commonly transporting sporting equipment that could not fit in a suitcase. Large numbers of disabled Parapan Am athletes increased passenger screening time and plane loading, but rigorous preparation and proper allocation of manpower resulted in ensuring passenger with special needs received the best experience traveling through Pearson’s airport.

Every day brings new challenges to airport security. Thorough planning, dedication and ongoing cooperation between GardaWorld, CATSA and other involved parties can go a long way in facilitating travelers’ passage through airport security screening, even during high travel peaks.