Chair: Martin Gill

Panellists:
Ali Alharthy – Team Lead Center of Excellence for Security and Crisis Management at OQ (Oman)
Andy Kynoch – Managing Director at ICTS UK & IRELAND
Geoffrey Moore – Security Consultant at Arup (Hong Kong)

Key Points

Geoff Moore sets the context by highlighting the struggles faced by the aviation sector extending back several years, which have impacted on profits and therefore investment, and this complicates the need for change. The range of standards in operation is complicated for everyone (as is the varied response to Covid-19), not least passengers who are treated differently and come to have different and confused expectations. He underlines the need for establishing trust in security; of coming to terms with convergence and he includes engaging the support of the C suite (which is always a challenge); and creating vulnerabilities when responses are not properly tested. He calls for a risk-based rather than compliance focussed approach to regulation, and while accepting that technologies have a place reminds us of the importance of people in good security. Yet the return to the new normal will be troublesome for passengers, there is no getting away from that. Solutions may be found in the ways airports are designed, how we manage queues, what we deal with baggage and of course the ways in which way can deploy good touchless technologies. But don’t expect things to happen quickly!

Ali Alharthy makes the point that airport security has changed a lot in the last 18 months, so much so that it will be difficult, and slow, to get back to business as usual. There has been a loss of good people; staff will be less experienced; they won’t be accustomed to checking and questioning in the same way good security depends on; and then there are Covid-19 restrictions imposed by such things as a requirement to wear masks and social distance etc. You will hear Ali identify specific security weaknesses, including the insider threat and the lack of checks on staff, which also pose a virus spreading risk. Ali too, sees a place for technologies but we have to adapt to using them, you can still make facial recognition work where mask wearing is a requirement if people are required to show their full face to cameras in a secure zone. He calls for uniformity in approach, to focus on minimum standards at least and so as not to confuse staff and undermine the trust of passengers.

Andy Kynoch reminds us that safety and security are always a priority in this area, albeit the economic impact caused by Covid-19 has dented confidence and investment, but throughout he adopts an optimistic tone. He discusses a range of initiatives, mostly involving new technologies, that promise to make the new normal in air travel both secure and convenient. Just for example, he discusses collaborations with tests centre, developing virus tests (and not just for Covid-19) that can report a result in 20 seconds and that are cost effective too, an App that can store Covid-19 documents so important to facilitating travel; temperature checks at the point at which people board flights. He is optimistic security can scale up although not fully until 2022.

It is encouraging Andy is positive, and that new initiatives are being tried. But as you will hear Geoff remind us, offenders are always looking for opportunities and they are quick to adapt, we need to be on our guard. And Ali is surely right to remind us that security will take a while to get back to being fully and optimally functional. Given that we all need to play our part, our panellists remind us air travel is one space where that has never been more important.

Martin Gill
3rd March 2021