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Airport Security and Air Travel Safety Case Study


Safety in the air transport sector has become a major concern in this era of globalisation. To this end, stakeholders in the industry have put in place a number of measures to ensure that this mode of transport remains the safest. The current study was developed based on the understanding that continued improvements in air transport are needed to enhance safety. The author adopted a qualitative research design on air transport with respect to airport security.

The study was based on an evaluation of the evolution of airport security with respect to the general safety of this mode of transport. In the study, the author concluded that security scenarios are constantly evolving in modern day air transport. To this end, a comparative analysis was carried out in relation to an organisation that has applied new technologies to combat crime in the airport. It was found that the changes in airport security are an improvement on the safety of air travel in the global matrix.



Globalisation has led to increased popularity of air transport. At the same time, there has been an increase in cases of insecurity at various airports across the globe. The most common threat to this mode of transport is terrorism. In spite of these challenges, the aviation industry remains the safest form of transport in the world. In this regard, the current study evaluates the evolution of airport security in relation to the general safety of air transport.

Thesis Statement

The study revolves around one major thesis statement:

The evolution of airport security has contributed towards improved safety in air transport

Background Statement

Airports all over the world are recording an increase in the number of passengers annually. For example, a study carried out by Lee et al. (2013) found that Heathrow and Dubai Airports recorded an annual increase in the number of passengers between 2011 and 2013. The high numbers increase the threat of terrorism. Lee et al. (2013) define airport security as the avenue through which passengers, personnel, and aircrafts are protected from any form of accidental or malicious aggression. Towards this end, airport authorities have enhanced security procedures in various destinations around the world.

An evaluation of airport security and related measures requires an insight into the threats presented to this mode of transport. According to Stewart and Mueller (2013), the most common threats are terror attacks, smuggling of contraband, and other crimes. The objective of airport security is to ensure that lethal weapons and other contraband material do not find their way into the aircraft and to other destinations (Badi & Weisburd, 2011).

In spite of the obvious technological and procedural improvements in airport security, passenger screening remains one of the most controversial aspects of security. Most airport security policies are based on the assumption that all passengers pose a threat to the safety of air transport. Consequently, more emphasis is placed on the detection of illegal material rather than on the respect of individual. Stewart and Mueller (2013) argue that most airport security measures contribute towards time constraints, which is an inconvenience to passengers. Combined, these challenges adversely impact on the performance of air transport.

A number of measures have been put in place to evaluate means and ways of improving airport security without inconveniencing the passengers. The current literature review expounds more on the evolution of this phenomenon.

Objectives of Study

The current study evaluates airport security amidst rising cases of insecurity worldwide. In light of this, the research was guided by two general objectives and six specific objectives.

General objectives

  1. To identify ways of improving the techniques and methods used in maintaining airport security.
  2. To identify ways to develop screening techniques that are in line with risk factors.

Specific objectives

  1. To collect information that is beneficial to the AVSEC department.
  2. To provide solutions based on historical incidents in case of screening system failure and infiltration.
  3. To establish the most common threats with respect to air transport.
  4. To evaluate the general screening processes in airports.
  5. To evaluate the efforts being made at overcoming the challenges in airport security procedures.
  6. To highlight future trends in airport security.

Research Questions

The current study sought to address the following research questions:

  1. What are the current methods and techniques that airports are using in screening passengers and what are their effectiveness?
  2. What are the new ways that can be used to further improve the techniques and methods used?
  3. Why is security screening extreme and necessary in some airports than in others?

Literature Review

Airport Security: Major Problems

Globalisation is taking root in today’s society. The global aviation sector supports the movement of persons from one place to another. The same has a corresponding effect on the global economic growth. In this regard, several studies affirm the need for increased airport security (Kang & Kang, 2008). According to Lee et al. (2013), passengers and cargo are the major priority when it comes to airport security. However, the study by Kang and Kang (2008) found that there are other threats to the infrastructure in the whole airport layout. In this case, airport security is required to take into account the whole issue of infrastructure.

The terror attack on American soil in 2001 is one of the issues that led to increased screening measures when it comes to airport transport. In their research, Lee et al. (2013) found that airport security is incomplete without an analysis of the screening measures. That notwithstanding, cases of insecurity should not be a reason to violate the rights of passengers. To this end, airport security should put into account the issue of civil liberties (Bowen & Lu, 2000).

Airport security is a costly affair. Lee et al. (2013) found that its costs in America and Europe run into billions of dollars. According to Kang and Kang (2008), the share of the aviation security sector ranges for €1 billion to €2 billion. Consequently, the European Union (EU) market alone accounts for a significant portion of the global security budget, which is estimated at around $8 billion.

Screening and Passenger Profiling

The security measures imposed in most airports act as a preventive mechanism against acts of terror. Screening and passenger profiling are some of the areas where airport security focuses on. Kang and Kang (2008) point out that these two elements are brought about by the diverse nature of threats presented in airports. For instance, the infrastructural protection calls for surveillance equipment and the necessary personnel. In this regard, the screening entails the use of biometric equipment (Linos, Linos & Colditz, 2007).

As previously mentioned, cargo is also a point of concern when it comes to airport security. A study by Sweet (2002) found that cases of violation of privacy are reducing with improved screening techniques. Technological advancements in screening have made the process faster (Sweet, 2004). Explosives, infectious diseases, and other threats can be detected using advanced technologies. Consequently, the privacy violation cases due to comprehensive screening procedures are on the decline.

The threat of air travel can extend to the aircrafts. Kang and Kang (2008) found that air traffic management is a prime target of terror attacks. In addition, in-flight security is an issue of concern considering the potential cases of plane hijacks (Seidenstat, 2004). To this end, improvements in automated security systems help to bring about perfection in air transport. The systems are often connected to the airport security protocols.

The nature of the security threats facing the aviation industry is constantly evolving. Kang and Kang (2008) point out that significant investment is required with respect to the technological advancement required to meet emergent threats. The study by Lee et al. (2013) found that evolving threats have implications on the planning procedures involved in air transport. In this regard, screening of passengers and cargo is required to evolve into fast and automated systems that carry out comprehensive searches for potential threats.

Future Trends in Airport Security

The security threats associated with the air travel sector change as a result of various factors. There is a need to evaluate this subject on the basis of future security threats and measures. According to Lee et al. (2013), cyber crime has emerged to be one of the biggest security challenges in the 21st century. A similar perspective is held by Stewart and Mueller (2013). Stewart and Mueller (2013) posit that technology will continue to play a key role when it comes to proper security management in airports.

Technological advancement in the aviation industry have created a scenario where there passengers spend less times in the airport. According to Stewart and Mueller (2013), issues to do with checking-in of passengers and payments are fast moving to the digital space. With regards to this, there is a felt need to protect passenger information. In future, screening procedures will shift from passenger profiles to content shared in the digital space. However, very few studies have focused on this subject. Consequently, future trends in airport security become one of the major gaps in this literature.



The current study is developed based on a qualitative research design. According to Creswell (2009), qualitative studies emphasise on secondary sources of data. In this chapter, details pertaining to data analysis are also outlined.

Research Design

A qualitative research design is ideal for studies that are mostly comparative. According to Christensen, Burke, and Turner (2010), these research approaches are crucial when it comes to the descriptive aspects of a study. In light of this, the current study adopted an exploratory research design. The literature provides the necessary information available on the subject. From the secondary sources, data was collected to address the objectives of the study.

The current study had two phases. The first phase incorporates secondary sources where multiple journals and books were examined to analyse the subject of airport security. According to Creswell (2009), literature reviews are insufficient in addressing the requirements of a study. For that reason, the second phase of the research undertaking involved a case study. The information obtained from the case study was used to support the data gathered from the literature review.


The study was specific to airport security. The discussion evaluated the issues touching on safety measures required in an airport. The information was collected from books and journals touching on this subject. The secondary data in the literature review expounds on the background statement and on the objectives set out in chapter 1. According to Christensen et al. (2010), the scope of a study should not focus on a particular geographical location. A cross-sectional approach is crucial with regards to addressing all the research questions posed in a study.

Research Questions

As previously mentioned, the study evaluated airport security in the global aviation matrix. Chapter 1 outlined the objectives of the research undertaking. Creswell (2009) suggests that research questions should be formulated to reflect the objectives of the study. For the purposes of data collection, the research questions outlined in chapter 1 were spliced to make them more specific. Consequently, the following were the specific questions:

  1. Are there threats to air transport? – The question sought to establish the most common threats with respect to air transport
  2. What are some of the common screening methods in airports? – The question prompted an analysis of the various screening processes in airports around the world.
  3. What are the challenges facing airport security?
  4. What are the efforts being made to overcome the challenges in airport security procedures?
  5. What is the future of airport security? – The question sought to highlight future trends in airport security.

The research questions outlined above were evaluated based on the findings of the literature review and the information obtained from the case study. Consequently, a discussion is provided to highlight the necessary comparison of the findings.

Christchurch International Airport Limited: A Case for Automation of Airport Systems


In the literature review, the subject of technological advancement was discussed in relation to future trends of airport security. The case study was selected based on the criteria of an airport that is using technology to solve the challenges associated with aviation safety. Christchurch International Airport Limited (CIAL) was selected as the ideal case study with respect to the objectives of the current study.


CIAL is located in South Island, New Zealand. Estimates indicate that the facility handles approximately 6 million passengers annually (Squalli, 2005). The installation is charged with a number of responsibilities by the country’s civil aviation agency. For example, it regulates access to restricted regions. Officers must screen people in such areas. According to Lee et al. (2013), airports with high traffic are required to incorporate automated system for maximum security. Consequently, the facility has contracted the services of Gallagher Security Systems.

The application of Gallagher is informed by the system’s flexibility and scalability. The study by Lee et al. (2013) found that automated security systems are introduced to lessen the burden of infrastructural challenges associated with the management of large airports. The system developed by Gallagher is flexible and responds to the variability of scales used in different airports. For instance, it has been used in Baiyun International Airport in Guangzhou, China.


The main challenge faced by CIAL involves the rising number of passengers using the facility. Kang and Kang (2008) point out that increased airport traffic is associated with a spike in infrastructural developments. In light of this, the Gallagher system provides support to the strategic areas of the airport. According to Kang and Kang (2008), the main areas that require security attention in facilities include the terminal, the support building, and the airfield.

The suitability of Gallagher is seen in the manner in which it provides a modern and reliable access control system. Previously, the company made use of systems that were incapable of providing the support required to meet the growing traffic. Consequently, the system is used to provide the necessary security to passengers and cargo. The two-pronged strategy is critical in minimising potential in-flight security challenges.

The flexibility of the Gallagher system comes in handy when the security coverage requires expansion. According to Kang and Kang (2008), the volume of air transport is expected to rise exponentially over the next five years. Based on this, CIAL is strategically prepared for the challenges that will emerge when infrastructural expansions are introduced to the airport.


CIAL was established in 1959. At the time, cases of terrorism in air travel were almost non-existent. However, the present day safety challenges present a huge problem, especially considering that the airport traffic is increasing. Kang and Kang (2008) point out that most security systems lack the flexibility to adapt to the ever evolving cases of insecurity. Unfortunately, the company still relies on the digital and analogue systems.

According to Lee et al. (2013), digital and analogue systems are limited when it comes to usability. Most non-technical members of staff are unable to operate the network. To this end, CIAL is seen as an avenue through which the flexibility impediment can be resolved.


The major challenge of an inflexible security system is that it restricts usage. The previous system could only be managed by experts. Consequently, the company had to incur heavy expenses when it came to outsource the experts in the field. However, the Gallagher system reduced the cost of security, which is seen as a major impediment. Lee et al. (2013) argue that efficient security systems should be managed in-house to avert chances of corporate espionage. The Gallagher system allows CIAL to improve the efficiency of screening procedures given its fast pace.

Findings and Discussion

The qualitative data obtained in this study provide the information sought after in the research questions. In this chapter, the author provides a comparative analysis with respect to the case study and the literature review.

Threats to Air Transport

The literature review provided an insight into the various incidences of airport insecurity. On the basis of this, Lee et al. (2013) argue that airports are required to adopt a strategy that will bring about efficiency in handling security incidences. The CIAL case aptly supports this position. From the case study, it is evident that high passenger volumes require a comprehensive and efficient security system. Lee et al. (2013) point out that infrastructural developments are prime targets when it comes to airport security. The Gallagher system is used to address these threats by providing security support to key installations at the airport.

Efforts Aimed at Overcoming Challenges in Providing Airport Security

Airport security is a collaborative process of all the stakeholders involved in a given industry. In this regard, the industry officials are the regulators. The officials determine the requirements entailed in providing the necessary support (Sweet, 2004). With respect to the case study, details touching on the industry stakeholders were left out. The role played by these individuals is crucial in the development of the necessary goodwill to combat rising cases of insecurity. Although the details of stakeholders were not included in the case study, it is important to appreciate their contribution in defining the specific areas of interest with respect to airport safety.

The main challenge faced by CIAL entails the surge in number of passengers. Sweet (2002) points out that increased airport traffic comes with changes to the infrastructure of an airport. The Gallagher system is used by CIAL to provide the necessary support to the strategic areas of the airport. According to Sweet (2002), the main areas that require security attention in an airport include the terminal, support building, and the airfield.

The Evolution of Airport Security

In the first chapter, it was observed that passenger screening is a controversial subject in airport security. A number of security policies in airports are meant to treat passengers as a threat. Consequently, it is found that many airports disregard the human rights of individuals passing through them. Separately, Stewart and Mueller (2013) found that analogue security systems contribute to the delays experienced in airports due to extended screening techniques. Together, these issues impact negatively on the efficiency of air transport.

Airport security should adapt to changes in the nature of emerging threats. In light of this, airports are adopting automated systems to minimise cases of civil rights violations (Sweet, 2004). The case study found that Gallagher is one of the installations used to achieve this objective by providing a modern and reliable access control system. The study found that the company makes use of systems that were incapable of efficiently handling human traffic at the airport. Consequently, Gallagher was introduced to provide the necessary security to passengers and cargo. The strategy is critical in minimising potential in-flight security challenges like hijackings.


In this study, the author evaluated air transport from the perspective of safety measures. Based on the findings, the following recommendations are made:

  • Automated security systems are essential in dealing with the ever-changing nature of threats. Airport safety should focus on ensuring that security checks do not inconvenience passengers.
  • Airport security should reduce the time spent by passengers in an airport
  • Airport security should be maintained based on the awareness of the changes brought about by the evolving cases of insecurity.


The current study was developed around the thesis statement that the evolution of airport security plays a major role in improved safety of air transport. It is also noted that changes in airport security measures point to the fact that security threats have evolved. For instance, CIAL makes use of automated systems due the element of cyber crime. According to Sweet (2004), this crime can be committed by an individual who is not at the airport. The result has seen various airports come up with innovative measures to address this threat. Consequently, there is need to evaluate future trends in airport security given the emergent cases of new threats, such as missing planes. The issue needs to be properly addressed.


Badi, H., & Weisburd, D. (2011). Going beyond ascribed identities: The importance of airport security screening in Israel. Law & Society Review, 45(4), 867-892.

Bowen, B., & Lu, C. (2000). Advocating for the implementation of an airline safety information system. Public Works Management & Policy, 5(2), 91-96.

Christensen, B., Burke, J., & Turner, L. (2010). Research methods, design and analysis, Chicago: Allyn and Bacon.

Creswell, W. (2008). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods approaches. London: Sage Publications.

Kang, M., & Kang, J. (2008). Ground security activities for prevention of aviation terrorism centered on San Francisco International Airport of the U.S.A. The Journal of the Korea Contents Association, 5(6), 195-204.

Lee, J., Im, H., Sohn, S., Ko, S., Hong, K., Choi, S., & Lee, C. (2013). Airport security process improving for advanced operation and smart airport framework design. Journal of Korean Institute of Industrial Engineers, 39(2), 129-134.

Linos, E., Linos, E., & Colditz, G. (2007). Screening program evaluation applied to airport security. British Medical Journal, 3(1), 1290-1292.

Seidenstat, P. (2004). Terrorism, airport security, and the private sector. Review of Policy Research, 21(3), 275-291.

Squalli, J. (2005). Do consumers have imperfect recollection about airline safety?. Applied Economics Letters, 3, 169-176.

Stewart, M., & Mueller, J. (2013). Aviation security, risk assessment and risk aversion for public decision making. Journal of Political Analysis and Management, 32, 615-633.

Sweet, K. (2002). Terrorism and airport security. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press.

Sweet, K. (2004). Aviation and airport security: Terrorism and safety concerns. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson/Prentice Hall.

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