Airport owners and managers are faced with an evolving set of complex access and security challenges. Here Mark Gore, Airport Business Development Manager at dormakaba explores how these challenges impact the passenger journey and how implementing a suite of smart access and security solutions can help airports achieve their objectives.
Passenger numbers in the UK have consistently increased in recent decades. Although the COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted the sector, the long term trend data suggests passenger numbers could reach 435 million people by 2050, up from 284 million in 2017. This is part of a wider global trend, with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimating that globally the number of air travellers will reach 8.2 billion by 2037, more than double the 4 billion passengers seen in 2017.
Modern airports have implemented a range of additional security to protect the passengers, crew and aircraft from attack. Furthermore, airports play a key role in ensuring that law enforcement agencies can track and control who is entering and leaving the country.
With the steady expansion of passenger numbers, airport operators must achieve streamlined movement through the airport from check-in to boarding, while ensuring that security is maintained at all times. In fact, research suggests that passengers are now less accepting of delays at airports. An IATA survey found that 80% of passengers said they wanted to wait no longer than three minutes to drop off a bag. Similarly, 79% of travellers were happy to queue for a maximum of 10 minutes at immigration, with only 2% saying they would accept a waiting time longer than 20 minutes.
It is also important to consider the ease of access and experience of people with disabilities, including those whose disability is not immediately obvious. This includes dementia, autism, learning difficulties, anxiety issues, mental health conditions and hearing loss. In addition, the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has a world-leading Accessibility Reporting initiative that seeks to measure and improve airports’ performance with regard to the experience of people with disabilities. It assesses waiting times, satisfaction scores and the airport’s engagement with the disabled community.
Implementing the correct access control and security solutions at each stage of the passenger journey can help the airport achieve all these requirements. This includes solutions for boarding pass checks into the security area, passport control, access to lounges and final boarding. The access for staff to the non-public areas of the airport also needs to be considered.
Automation of these processes is an effective way of streamlining journeys and making ground staff available for other purposes. Minimising the number of manual checks helps to free up airport and airline employees to assist those that might need additional support. This is particularly important for boarding where some passengers may require assistance, especially wheelchair users or those who have issues with mobility.
Furthermore, automatic immigration or passport checks means border staff have more time to carry out spot checks, monitor for suspicious behaviour and deal with any incidents that may occur. In airport lounges, automation frees up staff to focus on providing a higher level of customer service to passengers.
Implementing solutions that allow for a contactless passenger journey through the airport is something that is positively received by passengers. As well as being more hygienic, the IATA survey found that 74% of passengers said speed was the main benefit of using automated immigration gates and that 72% were positive about the experience of automated immigration processing.
Solutions for each area
While the different areas of the airport will have specific needs, considering the access solutions holistically and how these will integrate together helps to achieve the best possible results and streamlined outcome.
Arrival at the airport
Although access control systems are not generally required at the entrance, this area has a role in ensuring a streamlined and secure passenger journey as well as creating a welcoming and pleasing environment. At the check in, bag drop or pre-security gates a facial recognition template can be taken which can then be used at the boarding gate to verify that the person boarding the plane has entered the airport via the main entrances or from a connecting flight.
Following check-in and baggage drop, passengers must move into the secured area of the airport through the security area. This requires a check of each person’s boarding pass and this has the potential to become a bottleneck, especially at busy times. Automated boarding pass control gates can provide the solution. The specific challenges here include, preventing tailgating – more than one person attempting to get through the gate – while ensuring that people can move through the barriers with luggage safely. Automated gates with sensors capable of distinguishing between luggage and a person solve this issue, so that the gate is kept open for the appropriate amount of time.
Another area where smooth but controlled movement of passengers is essential, is passport control. All the required checks must be made on people entering and leaving the country, but as efficiently as possible to minimise waiting times and delays. When using automated immigration gates, the most important factor to consider is ensuring that invalid or forged documents are detected using biometric validation. Advances in technology means the passenger simply needs to look into a camera and the system swiftly runs checks to determine whether the person in question is the passport holder.
Lounges are an important part of the travel experience for First- and Business-class passengers, and an important revenue stream for airlines. Here, automated gates provide simple and seamless access to the lounges for those passengers. Bi-directional gates featuring a document scanner and screen facing in each direction, allows easy and flexible movement in and out of the lounge.
When boarding commences, the flow of passengers onto the aircraft must be managed carefully and a final check of passports and passes is required to ensure that the correct passengers are boarding and prevent any unauthorised access to the aircraft. It is also important to quickly determine who has boarded to allow staff to locate any missing passengers as quickly as possible to avoid departure delays.
Arguably, boarding is one of the areas where automation has the greatest untapped potential for airports. Self-boarding gates offer a fast and reliable method for document checks. Sophisticated automated systems are also able to control the speed and flow of boarding to avoid queues within the plane and on the airbridge, allowing a more comfortable and, ultimately, quicker boarding.
For efficient operation of the airport, staff must be able to move easily between the public and secure areas these areas of the airport without compromising security. Solutions such as electronically controlled security interlocks can provide a simple, secure and space-efficient solution. Access can be granted using key cards or code entry, with biometric verification available for high security area applications. Misuse of the interlock is prevented using contact mats and weight sensors that detect the presence of a second person.
Choosing an automated system
Beyond the factors already mentioned, there are other considerations when selecting the system. Automated systems must be easy to use for everyone, especially as many of the people using the gates will not speak the same language. For example, our Argus Air solutions, which have been designed specifically for airports, feature a clear colour display screen and animated LED lighting to provide intuitive user guidance.
It is also important to select a product that has demonstrably very low false acceptance and false rejection rates to ensure confidence in the security of the process and minimise the need for manual checks. The solution must also deter unauthorised access, including preventing passengers from entering without presenting their boarding pass. This can be achieved via sensors that detect when the passenger has entered and exited the gate area.
The gates must also be robust enough to resist attempts to force the barrier open or move in the opposite direction to the intended flow of people.
Finally, it is always recommended that airports select solutions for each area that integrate together and even operate in the same way. This makes it easier for the users and means that data can be shared across the passenger journey to further streamline the process. For example, the Argus Air range includes products designed for security areas, passport control, access to lounges and boarding management, with flexibility built in to allow specific requirements to be met.
With major airports welcoming millions of passengers every year, the operators must balance the need to deliver a positive passenger experience with ensuring that security is maintained at all times. Automated access control solutions can speed up security and identity checks, allowing more staff time and resources to be dedicated to improving safety, security and the passenger experience.
To find out more about dormakaba’s expert range of solutions engineered for airport environments, including self-boarding and automated immigration gates, visit www.dormakaba.com/gb-en/solutions/market-sectors/airports