2020 has left airport security checkpoints with trends that might linger for a while in the year ahead and others that might stay with us forever; some of these trends include biometrics, computed tomography, queue management systems, and overall transformation of operational processes to enable physical distancing and safe travel throughout the passenger journey.
In 2021, Airports will see an increase in passenger volume travel due to vaccination and preflight testing. The ease of having a negative test to travel will encourage more traffic. IATA has also forecasted anticipation of net profit growth in 2021. Here are some of our predictions for airport security trends in 2021:
1. Contactless technology and self service automation
Contactless technology and automating processes will be accelerated to reduce direct interaction between passengers and staff. Automated divestment screens trailed at various UK airports will reduce the need for a loading officer but maintain effective tray consolidation, tray reject rates and divestment times for passengers.
2. Cost reduction and operational efficiency
Security checkpoints will need to become more efficient to reduce operating expenditure in 2021. Due to a decline in Airport revenue, management teams will endeavor to operate more efficiently and effectively.
3. Hygiene measures
We expect airports to adopt further hygiene measures to ensure cleaner surfaces throughout the checkpoint. Security management will focus on cleanliness and introduce hygiene measures for continued tray sanitization. Antimicrobial trays will continue to be embraced by airports. The safe disposal of PPE will also continue to be a priority in 2021.
4. Agile/flexible planning and operation
Passenger volumes are expected to fluctuate in 2021 as countries will continue to lockdown for short periods of time during the vaccination transition, making it challenging to accurately forecast passengers' arrival at the security checkpoint. We foresee that adopting a flexible resourcing and operations strategy in shorter time cycles could help create stability. A shorter time cycle between planning periods will ensure that the operation can react quickly and take the necessary corrective actions to ensure a smooth operation throughout the day.
5. Space congestion
Passenger expectations for physical distancing and general space congestion will shift the traditional operating model for security. Traditionally, the trend in airport security is to squeeze as many passengers through the security process as quickly as possible. We foresee the design of the security checkpoint in 2021 to take more consideration regarding space utilization and congestion. Airports will continue push the security operation to avoid queuing and the buildup of passenger congestion.
6. Technology such as CT and CIP
Computed Tomography (CT) is the latest checkpoint X-ray scanning equipment where liquids and laptops can remain inside a passengers bag. The 3D imaging technology enhances threat detection capabilities for carry-on baggage. Centralized Image Processing (CIP) enables agents to screen images remotely and away from passengers. CIP systems enhance detection performance, throughput, capacity, and employee satisfaction. The adoption of CT and CIP technologies at security checkpoints will continue in 2021.
7. Capacity/ Continuous improvement
With increased passenger volume expected in 2021 when compared to 2020, and a potential reduction in security checkpoint capacity due to COVID-19 measures during the vaccination transition period, we anticipate airports focusing on continuous improvement to increase throughput and capacity on existing security lanes.
8. Artificial intelligence and machine learning
The use of AI to monitor threat detection at security X-rays will continue to be developed in 2021. AI will help security operators identify threats that might otherwise be missed, while also reducing the cognitive load from the security X-ray operator.