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Changes In Airport Security And Future Progress

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Everyone remembers not being able to sleep the night before your holiday as a child. Whilst we might loose some of our enthusiasm as we grow older, most of us still feel a sense of excitement and anticipation before we jet off. Whether it’s the journey to the airport in the dead of night, the time spent waiting at the airport to board your flight, or the actual flight itself. As a child or an adult we can feel excitement, trepidation or even nervousness (if you are afraid of flying).

But sometimes that excitement can turn to irritation when we come to the security checks that are mandatory at airports and this can put a bit of a dampener on things. Removing shoes. Taking belts and jackets off. Admittedly, it’s for everyone’s safety and generally most passengers would probably rather have a little bit of inconvenience for the sake of a safe flight but even when we cooperate, we no doubt sometimes wonder whether it’s all really necessary.

Ask anyone what they would say was one of the most influential world events of the past 20 years and the majority would probably say it was the attacks on the World Trade Center. 9/11 was a disaster on a scale that America hadn’t seen since the civil war and the direct attack on home soil shocked and confused the western world. How could such a world power be caught out like that with the current security in place at the time? Nothing had been done like this on such a huge scale and only then was it deemed that our security measures were simply not as effective as we thought they were. It prompted a huge revision of International security protocols, not just in America but worldwide and saw the security measures introduced that we now have in place for everyone’s safety.

The world has changed significantly over the last 50 years and when we compare our flight security measures and procedures now to what they were back in the 1960’s and 70’s, it is frightening that we were ever that dismissive of what could have happened

The Dizzy Heights of the 1960s

The world looked a lot different back then. It is said we are shaped by the world we live in and this was evident in the 60s. At that time there was hardly any security at all in airports and the level of access and the freedom a passenger had was truly frightening in comparison to today’s standards.

  • There was significantly less security and general airport staff
  • Observation decks were available to sit on outside near the runway. An evening walk whilst planes took off and landed less than half a mile away was not uncommon.
  • Perhaps most shocking of all was that there was no identification needed when buying a ticket and you could literally walk unsupervised out to the runway and onto the plane.
  • Smoking was allowed in the airport, on the runway and on the plane. Given the amount of jet fuel that was being used (just as it is today) this was extremely dangerous.

Flying is just as popular as ever

In the UK alone this year there were 221 million passengers in total passing through airports such as Heathrow, Luton, Manchester and Edinburgh. That figure is a 0.6% increase from 2011 but is still 8% below figures seen in 2007. This is likely to have been caused by the economic downturn Britain has seen over the last few years rather than any fear of threat but people are still going on holiday and still travelling by air. Worldwide figures are of course much bigger, with flight statistics in 2011 showing there were 1.11 billion passengers in total, with an expected rise to 1.45 billion by 2016. It’s undeniably a booming business, even with prices increasing each year and with added security that doesn’t seem to affect people’s attitude toward flying. The general consensus seems to be that although they can frustrate and cause delays, they are in place for everyone’s safety.

New Technological Developments

Most airports have a police station of sorts which are on-hand to deal with any potential problems and usually they coordinate with security guards and in some cases military forces on-site. However, even with all of this man-power and extra vigilance from staff, delivering a thorough and accurate security process just wouldn’t be possible without the aid of new technology. Since 2001, the world has seen many advancements in technology and security measures have incorporated this new tech to help keep people safe.

So what are the current main security measures in place that can prevent a possible hijacking?

  • Metal Detectors – The most effective way of checking large numbers of passengers in the quickest way possible by scanning for metal objects such as knives or any other weapons that could be concealed and smuggled on board. You could be asked to remove your shoes and also your belt.
  • Manual bag checks – Sometimes the old ways are just as effective as the new and occasionally you could be asked to show your bag to an attendant for a manual search.
  • Liquids and Gels – After Britain discovered details of a terrorist plot to detonate liquid explosives on board flights from America, Canada and Britain itself, they introduced a limitation on liquids and gels being brought on board in hand luggage that exceeded 100ml. If you bought anything that exceeded 100ml whilst in duty free, you wouldn’t be able to take it on board with you.
  • Bag it – Any aerosols or gels that are eligible have to be sealed in a zip-lock plastic bag.

These are current security measures which have become familiar with anyone travelling often and now that we are used to them, they don’t seem as much of a chore as they perhaps once were but this is not the end of the road for security at airports. As with most technology, things move quickly and advancements in X-Ray scanners has recently caused a furore over the ability to show an image of the customer in a state of undress and this is being revised by the TSA (Transport Security Administration) in America in order to still provide effective scanning for hidden objects and weapons but at the same time maintaining the passengers privacy.

Safety for the Future

Other measures could be introduced, including biometric scans combined with the CAPPS II system. The Computer Assisted Passenger Pre-screening System enables more detailed information to be required when booking a flight and a risk assessment being attributed to the passenger. The biometric scan then confirms the passenger is who they say they are by using facial recognition patterns and finger and retinal scans for identification.

This may all sound a bit too futuristic and not very plausible but it is actually technology that is right around the corner. Obviously there are privacy issues to overcome and there will be some groups that are against “databasing” and cataloguing people’s personal information but if it offers an alternative to another potential atrocity like 9/11, then should we be opposing such a positive step forward for everyone’s safety in the future?

Charlie is a security wirter for All in One Security Doors. He has worked in the area of security for a number of years and likes to keep up to date with crime patterns and security innovations.

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