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How Airport Screeners Can Become More Efficient During Peak Travel Season

By: David Cable
June 4, 2013

Summer is upon us, and if for most of us summer means heat and beaches, it also means holidays and chaotic, heavy traffic in airports. Summer has become a busy time for security personnel at pre-board screening, with occasional passengers, large families and young travelers, more often than not, unaware of security procedures and non-permitted objects. Screening personnel are sought to provide more information on the processes, advice, and sometimes, even further body screening as metal detector alarms tend to ring off more often. This can lead to increased waiting in line at pre-board security, resulting in impatience and anger from delayed passengers.

I’ve never met anyone who gets excited to go through pre-board security screening, especially when they have to wait in long lines. As an operational manager at Edmonton’s International Airport, I have learned over the years that good planning and smart management can help override peak-season wait times at pre-board security screening and help keep travelers happy.  Here are a few tips you can use when planning for the busy travel season:

 

It all starts with pre-planning. Scheduling enough screening officers on sight to meet passenger needs during the peak travel season should be at the top of the list. It is crucial that the management team ensures that each checkpoint, and subsequently each screening line, contains a group of screening officers with the necessary, complimentary skill sets to meet a large variety of screening situations. Some foresight will undeniably save time in screening officer’s re-deployment and prevent confusion in the checkpoint as screening officers and managers search for the appropriate screening officer to respond to various screening scenarios.

 

Sufficient and relevant training is an aspect not to be overlooked. Well trained screening officers are able to react effectively and with confidence in a wide range of screening situations. They will be able to handle problems without necessarily having to confer with supervisors or co-workers to reach a decision on a non-permitted object or how to screen an unusual item, for example. Security officers should be trained to detect threats to aviation security, to focus on the task at hand, and to make timely decisions on the contents of passenger's bags and persons in an environment full of potential distractions.

 

Interpersonal skills and customer service are also qualities we are constantly looking to encourage in our personnel. Engaging the passenger and being able to recognize their individual needs at the checkpoint can save both time and effort. Clearly communicating advice and instructions to passengers allows them to most comfortably and effectively prepare for the screening process. The number of metal detector and body-scanner alarms as well as luggage items requiring search can be greatly reduced through informed divesting at the entry position.

 

Identify passengers with special needs. Peak travel seasons such as summer holidays bring about a wide range of inexperienced travelers as well as passengers with special needs, both visible and non-visible, who may require greater assistance through the screening process. Identifying those passengers early on allows us to prepare screening officers in advance to prevent unnecessary wait and appropriate accommodation, thus avoiding discomfort. Acknowledging the unique screening needs of each passenger helps them move through a potentially stressful part of their journey at more ease, even during periods of rapid pace and high passenger volume.

 

Clear communication between screening officers is always a win-win formula as it ensures the care and control of passenger belongings is maintained throughout each stage in the screening process. This results in each screening officer clearly understanding their role as a passenger is transferred to them increasing passenger confidence in the processes and the screening officers carrying them out.