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AIRPORT DESIGN Last modified on February 8, 2016

All about access

Assa Abloy’s head of technical and marketing, Jonathan Nobbs, discusses how automating entrance and exit doors can help fine-tune security and boost customer satisfaction levels.

We all know that it isn’t easy to meet stringent security standards and process rising passenger numbers to tighter schedules at the same time as ensuring that travellers have an enjoyable, stress-free journey.

It is an often-used cliché, but getting things right requires a balancing act between the needs of the security forces and the operational efficiency of an airport.

Imposing and visible security measures, for instance, whilst of paramount importance can raise anxiety levels when applied overzealously, and even contribute to processing delays in extreme circumstances. 

With delays costing airports and airlines significant sums, through fines and refunds, the need to accommodate more passengers without expanding capacity requires optimum efficiency. 

And arguably the pressure on airport security to perform better is mounting as operational efficiency is more important than ever. 

Highly functional airport infrastructure, a vital asset for operational efficiency, requires a delicate blend of systems, processes and equipment that in recent years has increasingly included automating doors at exit and entrance points.

Below I explain why I believe that they can help fine-tune safety and security, improve passenger flows and enhance the travel experience.

Keep on walking 

Automating swing and sliding doors can be an effective way to simplify passenger movements, providing a flexible and easy route through halls, waiting areas and bag drops. 

Access control solutions can be utilised to complement zone restrictions and security operations, with sensors and activation units tailored to optimise efficiency. Ease of access, in terms of practicality and security, is a goal. Careful implementation is required to ensure easy doesn’t become lax, where doors facilitate unauthorised movements into, or in some instances back into, controlled areas.

Right door at the right time

When it comes to processing a high number of passengers in a short period of time, you don’t want a poorly specified door system to be the stimulus for unnecessary hold-ups. 

It’s really important that facility management teams monitor how many people pass through an entrance at any time. Ensuring opening points and adjacent spaces are wide enough to accommodate peak demand is fundamental. 

Space saving automatic swing door systems, with powered opening beyond the usual 90 degree range, could free up valuable space in tight corridors, while 180 degree opening widens walkways and passages. The latter being particularly useful where the door leaf of a conventional door is a barrier when ajar.

At certain points within any airport, intentionally staggering a thoroughfare for security purposes is normal practice. Doors that are constantly stood open are therefore not ideal; frequency and length of opening should be calculated and controlled to reduce unauthorised access. Leading suppliers of entrance automation encourage and assist traffic measuring and planning.

Every door matters

Passenger safety is crucial, and irrespective of the systems specified, integrating automated doors requires careful application consideration. 

Pocket screens, barriers and hazard signage are all useful tools to negate the chance of pedestrians being physically impacted by doors during their opening/closing cycle. 

Where ‘safety through security’ issues are identified, entrance automation is a reliable ally. Blast protected automatic entrances reduce the damage from blast hazards. Sliding and swing door systems are available options.


In reality, no one notices a door until it fails: that’s why planned and preventative maintenance is so important. Door breakdowns are a constant source of frustration for operators and passengers, not to mention the associated health and safety and security implications. 

The financial argument for planned, preventive maintenance is compelling. As with any mechanical system, automated doors require regular service. A lifetime cost approach, factoring the hidden costs of reactive service and repair, is essential to calculate true value. 

‘Out of hours’ service calls are the most effective way to reduce maintenance impact on passenger services. Where a ‘first time fix’ is the target, the competency of the engineer is vital. 

A flexible, skilled service programme is important, as is guaranteed access to manufacturer’s genuine parts. Physical location of engineers in the service network is also a factor to consider when choosing a maintenance partner.

Exits and entrances may not seem a priority in the grand scheme of aviation design, but the evidence shows that well planned and maintained automated entrances can make a difference to airport operations.

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