What role does the security experience play in shaping the passenger experience?
It has to be said that the prospect of standing in a long queue at an airport, having to submit to a body search, and then having one’s carefully packed bag taken apart piece by piece by a suspicious official is not something that most people look forward to.
So, what if anything, can be done to make the passenger experience of airport security as good as possible?
Dealing appropriately with passengers is a challenge. The prime reason for airport security nowadays is to minimise the risk to civil aviation from terrorism. The nature of the role requires security staff to remain alert and open to the possibility that any individual passenger could pose a threat.
Technology can help, but detection of dangerous items still ultimately depends on human judgement. At the same time as having to remain perpetually vigilant, security staff are under pressure to ensure efficient operation and good service. It is a difficult balance to strike.
Fortunately, most people accept that security is a necessity and will put up with a lot if they feel they are being treated fairly, reasonably and professionally. What can help to achieve this?
Educating passengers in advance
Passenger experience is shaped by the gap between expectations and reality. It’s important to find ways of increasing people’s awareness of security before they get there.
For example, letting people know about anticipated queue times helps people to prepare and can make the waiting more acceptable. More generally, those who rarely travel deserve particular attention as they don’t know what to expect, and can cause bottlenecks and problems for themselves and others.
Find ways of engaging and motivating security staff
Security is a challenging area to work in. The environment is busy and bustling with activity. Many of the jobs are shift-based, have a short cycle time and are relentlessly repetitive. Rules and regulations change frequently. As a consequence, turnover is often higher than in other areas.
In these circumstances, it’s important that airport leaders pay attention to their people. Well thought through processes are the foundations. Proper training is essential. Communication is of the essence.
A genuine concern for the wellbeing of security staff also makes a difference. Naples Airport in Italy, for example, has built a relaxation facility close to the work. Feedback on this has been very positive.
Invest in the development of interpersonal skills
People of every possible disposition, background, and culture pass through airport screening. Being treated fairly is the starting point. Thereafter, it’s amazing how much difference a smile, encouraging word, non-verbal behaviour and the style of interacting with colleagues can make.
A professional, considerate and helpful approach to security can transform the passenger experience, reducing the stress for all involved and preventing a bad start to a journey.