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Transport is important for the economies of all countries across the world. One of the key features of transport systems is airports, which are essential landing and taking off with regard to airplanes that transporting cargo and passengers. In fact, the use of airports is important in the process of improving foreign trade and policies because airports act as the key entry points to all countries. This paper has established that security is important at airports so that they could effectively play their roles. In the last few decades, the transport industry has witnessed a number of changes, some of which have resulted in increased levels of airport commercialization and privatisation.
As a result, there has been an increase in cargo and passengers that airports can support. However, there has also been an increase in the level of threats in airports. In order to reduce the levels of threats, it is important to implement strict measures that regulate the operations of airports. For example, the UK and the US were targeted due to their increased levels of airport commericialisation.
Airports are principal avenues to air transport and play a primary role in facilitating the running of the transport system. It is a key player in the economic development of any country considering that airports are the entry points for both domestic and international travels (Ashford, 2000). It is within the airport that passengers, their luggage and other types of cargo pass, in addition to allowing aircraft to take off and land to and from any part of the world. Principally, apt infrastructure such as runaways, aprons, taxiways, as well as a terminal for departures and arrivals, including terminals for ground and stowage interchange is requisite and mandatory for smooth running of operations within the airport (Roper, 1999).
In addition, facilities and amenities such as passenger lounges, food stores, and shops are mandatory necessities. This article provides an analysis elucidating the impact of airline commercialisation. An exploration of the threats posed by airline commercialisation is provided with the United States attack on September 11, 2001, and the UK terrorist threats as the primary examples of such threats.
Security Implications of Airport Commercialisation
The safety and security of passengers and their cargo is pertinent to flawless operations within the airport. In this regard, facilities and technologies commanding air traffic controls and monitoring of incoming and outgoing aircrafts as well as landing and taking off with regard to planes are required (Ashford, 2000).
Maintenance of personal security and the personnel to carry out luggage security screening, use of metal detectors to screen illicit objects threatening the security of passengers, staff and the airport itself, is a mandatory requirement for the airport. Airport command wealth in any country’s economy by generating foreign revenue, employment, and stabilising the community in which it serves both socially and economically (Douganis, 1992).
Transformations accompanied with the conversion of airports from public utilities to commercial enterprises with the adoption of businesslike attributes entail airport commercialisation. In many cases, airport commercialisation includes its privatisation, which encapsulates the transfer of airport management from the government or airport authority to private ownership either through share floatation, or introduction of contracts that are privately managed (Choi, 1993). In all cases, there is adoption of strategies leading to profit maximisation, of which, many a times, important measures required for smooth running of airport operations are overlooked. Among these, overlooking the security detail of an airport constitutes a major threat to the airport itself, airline, passengers or even the luggage itself.
Airport commercialisation has been shown to result in an increase in the number of airlines and planes that engage in domestic, regional and international freights. As a result, the lead management in the airport maximises all avenues to collect optimal revenue possible. Security detail in any airport is a primary concern (Graham, 2001). In fact, many terrorist attacks have targeted airports, which are ever busy and are characterised by passengers of diverse races across the world. This is because, every minute an increasing number of customers pass through any commercialised airport. In addition, the increase in the number of people concentrated in large airline terminals posses an increased potential to death threat resulting from aircraft attacks.
In many cases, it has been reported that airplanes have been hijacked as used as a lethal weapon. Airport commercialisation is an avenue to such target for terrorism (Roper, 1999). Such alluring terrorist targets have been in the news in the recent past, particularly in developed countries where technology and security detail are superior, with many such threats failing due to the high sophistication of security and nature of the attack.
Good airport security is meant to avert the contemplation of threats, including potentially precarious situations with the airport. Essentially, flawed airport security due to increased influx and/or efflux of people and goods result in increased changes of perilous situations happening or entry of illicit items in the country through the airport, which threaten the aircraft, airport and the country at large (Choi, 1993). As such, airport commercialisation adversely affects the security detail of the airport leading to a failure to protect the airport, passengers, goods under freight, and the country from any ominous events. In the same vein, there is a failure in reassuring the travelling public their safety, or even the safety of citizens in the country.
In order to command a superior security detail in any airport, it means that the airport enforcement authority must invest in employing qualified security personnel that are well equipped. In some countries where airports are under the government control as is the case in Kenya and Australia, where the Kenya Police and the Australian Federal Police, respectively, provide total security at major entry points in all airports, there are elaborate security protocols. In other countries, security provisions are manned by local or state authorities (Bentley, 2000; Graham, 2001).
Basically, a well detailed security personnel may include a police force specifically employed to provide airport security, as is the case in Ireland where the Irish Airport Police Service provides security. In other airports, the airport authority has recruited a substation of the local police authority to man airport security, or some members of the local police authority being assigned to provide security in patrol areas within the airport. In other cases, police dog services may be used for drug detection, or detection of explosives among other uses (Roper, 1999). Investing in such a detailed security personnel translates to a large financial input, time and a dedicated airport management. In commercialised airports, such managerial commitment to security lacks or is poor, leading to increased potential to security threats. Thus, there is a need for authorities to focus on security in airports as they also aim at commercialising them.
Considering the level of airport commercialisation in developed countries, the potential to security threats is very high. For instance, the American airport security protocol was shaken following the terrorist events of the September 11th 2001. To date, the US airport security procedures have been forced to embark on meticulous security transformation with the airport security personnel engaging in security update and redesigning screening procedures meant to address equitable security threats in future while using aircrafts or other hideous wares. It is from this threat that the US airport security was transferred to the US transportation security administration. Under this new security scheme, all passengers are subjected to absolute screening including their luggage. The screening procedures evolve with technology in order to detect explosives that pose a great threat to the lives of Americans.
In the same vein, terrorist threats culminated in the development of a Secure Flight Program, in which a terrorist watch is made at a 100% absolute level to all domestic and international airlines for domestic and international flights. Such intense and rigorous security advances in airport security are only available in the US, considering its financial ability to achieve the reality of zero airport security threats (Condie, 2001; United States Subcommittee on Federal Workforce and Agency Organisation, 2006). In considering other countries whose technological advances are way behind the US level, airport commercialisation would still be a major threat to airport security. Critics argue that America still has only improved its airport security in the 1990s from 1970s following the 9/11 attacks.
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In another case, commercialisation of the UK airports has resulted in increased security threats and heightened terrorist episodes in the recent past. For instance, since January 2011, there has been increased terrorist security threats in the UK directed against the airports. The level of terrorist threats in UK airports has increased significantly from substantial to severe levels, a threat change attributed to airport commercialisation. Although there are no intelligence reports directly showing possibility of imminent terrorist attacks in the UK, the adversities associated with airport commercialisation including the railway transport are severe and project increased changes of security breach. Projections from the UK aviation chiefs detail possibilities of the presence of al-Qaeda in the region with considerations of a possible airport attack. In addition, their projections portray the need to increase security precaution in its major transport hubs in order to handle such threats.
Airport commercialisation and privatisation have an impact on a country’s economy, with major effects being felt in social development, employment, infrastructure, and airline operational capacity. However, the competition between different airports and airlines brought about by economic factors of commercialization, such as liberalisation and airline consolidation results in a decline in adherence to operational requirements some of which affect the security of the airport and the people therein. The increase in business activities with airport expansion, airline addition and increased travel’s impact security, as exemplified in the US attacks in September 2001 or the current security threat potential facing the UK air and trail transport systems.
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Graham, A. (2001). The changing nature of airports. London: University of Westminster Press. Web.
Roper, C. (1999). Risk management for security professionals. Boston, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann. Web.
United States Subcommittee on Federal Workforce and Agency Organization. (2006). Travel Vs. Terrorism. Washington D.C.: Pearson. Web.