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Friday, December 04, 2009

Iraq and airport security

Over on the A Wing and a Prayer blog, Gray has finally posted the long-awaited report on his flight to Erbil (or Arbil) in Iraq. I'd flown this route about 18 months ago and blogged about the unusual descent to land in Iraq and a couple of other aspects of the flight, and so I was interested in his take on it as well as whether there have been significant changes.

However, one comment Gray makes in the post has gotten my attention. He prefers security checks to be at the gate (as they are in Vienna and Berlin for example) rather than centralised (in most USA airport terminals).

Some of the airports I fly through regularly (eg Singapore and Wellington) also have security checks at the gate. I'm no fan of them.

1) If there is a last minute gate switch you often need to go through security again.

2) In most airports there are limited facilities beyond gate security checkpoints. Fine if you can always time it just right for boarding a flight. Not so good if boarding is delayed or if you are directed to go to the gate earlier than necessary by an announcement over the PA or on the departure monitors. I'd much rather spend extra time in the lounge, or shops, and head to the gate at the last minute.

3) When there is a tight connection a security check at the gate may be the difference between making the onward flight and misconnecting. Centralised security generally means no security for transits, at least for domestic travel (plus within the Schengen zone in Europe) within the same airport terminal.

I've flown enough to appreciate that centralised security can also have downsides. Notably when you are stuck in an enormous queue and running late for your flight. If you were in a queue at gate security instead you might get picked out of the line so you can make the flight or be sharing a queue with other passengers on the same flight (thus it may be held for you). However, this ignores the queues for security checkpoints at the gate can also be long and be shared amongst multiple flights.

It also ignores that centralised security by definition makes full use of all the security officers, whereas security at the gate may have some gates manned with no queues while other gates have lengthy queues.

In summary, centralised security should be more efficient than security at the gate - less screening of transitting passengers and more consistent usage of available security officers and equipment. Which type do you prefer?

3 comments:

thewinchester said...

Centralised security all the way. I can't stand gate-based security models as they really hold things up and you basically are stuck in the gate lounge until planes are ready to depart.

Thankfully, I had some correspondence with Snr. Airport staff at Singapore Changi recently - and they are thankfully considering moving security to a centralised model for T1 and T2.

Luckily for me when I go through SIN my airline lounge is normally within 3-5min walk of our gate so just have to time things right.

Karen said...

I'll take Central security over gate security any day. I don't mind having both as it is needed in some airports. Both are standard in the Middle East.

In the US and Europe, gate screening is the worst and you are trapped.

Anonymous said...

No doubt, centralized is the way to go. Probably safer too, as you can concentrate all your people / technology in one spot.

Face it, Gray just likes to blabber about stuff, but he really hasn't flown all that much to warrant having a (meaningful) opinion on matters like this!