Fliers to face scans, frisks
Extra airport security will eventually mean
walking farther, waiting longer to board
Friday, September 14, 2001
Airline passengers who returned to the skies yesterday got a first taste of the extra security, longer waits and trepidation that may well become a fact of travelling life.
But those immediate changes, ranging from a visible police presence in the terminals to stricter ticketing procedures and increased scrutiny of passengers and their baggage, are just the beginning, according to security pundits.
In the next few years, as the world absorbs the fallout from the terrorist attacks on the United States, they say aviation security could, and should, be dramatically transformed.
Here's what air travellers might well encounter in the future:
Redesigned airports. The new thinking in airport design is to ensure that parking lots, airport entrances and boarding gates are farther from each other to minimize the effects of an attack in any one of those areas. If these designs set the standard for the most security-conscious airports, passengers will have to cover more distance to get from their cars to the planes.
"It's called the onion effect, and it allows for many layers to protect the most vulnerable part of the airport, the boarding area," said Bill Zalud, editor of Chicago-based Security magazine.
More long, narrow corridors en route to boarding gates should also be employed, said Peter St. John, a University of Manitoba international relations professor who has written extensively on airport security.
"This allows security cameras to watch passengers as they file by more closely and it discourages massive shooting attempts," he said.
More biometrics. Airports around the world are already experimenting with using digital fingerprint, iris and face scans to identify passengers before letting them into high-security zones. Expect more of it, the experts say. These technologies are more reliable than conventional photo identification. They can be linked instantly with a computer record of each person and they allow frequent fliers to use the airport with convenience.
"The use of more biometrics will be discussed," said Denis Chagnon, spokesman for the Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organization, the United Nations body that sets standards for international air travel. In two weeks, ICAO's 187 members will convene in Montreal for a conference on security issues.
Government-run security checkpoints. The assembly-line mentality of low-wage contract workers doing baggage checks may be replaced with a highly trained, better-paid squad of security professionals adept at everything from psychological profiling to the use of high-tech detection devices, Prof. St. John said.
"In Malaysia, they have a highly motivated airport security staff who are rewarded for trouble-shooting and improving airport security and who receive promotions. That raises the level for everyone else from the maintenance worker to the food-service personnel," he said.
Mr. Zalud predicts that the only way to ensure better performance by airport security personnel is for government to take over this role from the airlines.
Electronic noses. Air-sniffing technology, which uses sensors to detect chemicals that are used in explosives, could become standard equipment for baggage areas, Mr. Zalud said. As well, also holding great promise for enhanced security is new technology that creates an electronic inventory of all bags checked in and can detect a stray piece of luggage that is not linked to a passenger, he said.
Air marshals. The notion of big, beefy security personnel on board flights has been trotted out, tried, and subsequently dropped several times in North America, Mr. Zalud said.
However, the idea of air marshals will be resuscitated for flights where the risk of hijacking or any in-air violence is highest, he said.
Prof. St. John suggested that any future air marshals program should take its cue from the Israeli airline El Al, whose air marshals have proved a deterrent to hijackers.
Airport security survival guide
Some new measures you may encounter as a passenger:
There are no longer curb-side or off-airport check-ins allowed, and terminal parking lots are being monitored.
You are being watched
Upon entering the airport you will notice the increased number of police officers and security personnel patrolling the area
Are you who you say you are?
Photo I.D. is mandatory to be able to check in and pick up boarding passes. Personnel can also run a profile check at their discretion to confirm as identity.
Better order soup
Due to a total ban on knives, some airport restaurants aren't even allowing the use of plastic knives. Blades must be packed in checked luggage along with scissors and razor blades.
Passage beyond the metal detectors is prohibited without a ticket/boarding pass
After metal detection and X-ray, both you and your luggage may be hand searched be security staff.
Armed plainclothes officers could be among the passengers on a plane. This security tactic, and marshalling, was popular in the seventies.