Improving airport security efficiency

NZ recently started demanding that travellers remove laptops from bags when flying. This has been happening for a while in other countries, so you’d think it was no biggie. (I noticed the change as the first time it happened to me I happened to have two laptops in my carry-on.)

Unfortunately the screening system has slowed considerably, resulting in queues by the gates at Wellington Airport, and increasing stress for those harassed business-folk..

wellington airport queues

At Wellington Airport they now need to move the screening back toward the airport center, and beef up the number of channels. The airline lounges and some shops should be  beyond the security gates, so travelers can relax until the last minute.

While shonky regulations are no doubt driving the new systems, I was plesantly surprised to see one tweak. Each time I have been going through the new ‘show us your laptop’ system in Wellington, Auckland or Christchurch, I have been making a polite suggestion that they needed larger trays.  I won’t take the credit – but it was great to see larger trays turn up in the last 2 weeks – even if some of them are exactly the same size as my laptop, making it difficult to remove easily.

I have three more requests for the security staff:

1: Please don’t touch my computer – it is a delicate electronic instrument, and packed full of vital work and/or personal information. I get very nervous when you touch it.

2: Please do not make comments about my computer. You do not make comments about my underwear or clothes when you search my bags, and you should not make comments about my laptop, even if it is an Apple or Ferrari.

3: Please fix the logistics – usually there is one of you loading, one watching the screen, one standing around and one pretending to help unload. How about two loaders?

and some braver strategies:

A: Engaging me in conversation is the best way to determine whether I am dangerous or not, but it is difficult for me to be responsive when you are also treating me like a criminal. So put the security staff outside the system looking at the people, and automate the luggage and body search.

B: We do not all need to go through the scanner every time. As people enter Mexico customs in Mexico Airport, everyone is asked to press a button – if your number comes up you get searched by customs. Do the same in busy times – let the queue length dictate the percentage chance of a search, and keep focused on observing strange behavior. Make sure there is a material chance of getting searched.

C: Get rid of the visible security entirely – but go for 100% surveillance. We all expect by now that once we enter an airport we are required to behave. Copy the way security works in casinos, and monitor from above.

Remember we are all in this as well – treat us as adults and expect us to help you look for and deal with dodgy people. Treat us like criminals and we will treat you like prison guards.

Published by Lance Wiggs

@lancewiggs