Crowded Airport Terminal

TSA Sickout Creates Opportunities to Improve Airport Security

By Bill McAteer, Account Executive at Evolv Technology –

Prior to the government shutdown being temporarily lifted, a TSA ‘sickout’ resulted in a disruption of service that had a direct impact on the security and experience of today’s travelers. This provides a good lesson on how we can shape the future of airport security.

Driven by the prospect of continuing to work without pay, more than 10 percent of TSA agents protested by holding a sickout. To compound matters, many TSA agents also chose to leave the industry entirely, finding new jobs during the shutdown.

The protests had a direct impact on security and the customer experience as the lack of screeners forced airports such as Miami International and Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to shut down some screening areas, causing longer lines and longer delays.

Here’s the reality – the majority of travelers dread airport security as it is. The thought of long lines, combined with potentially invasive searches on them personally by TSA personnel, creates angst for many travelers.

But what this problem exposed is that our current model of airport security is broken. Security shouldn’t be beholden to workforce issues and performance concerns. Airports need to use this opportunity to modernize the infrastructure, their processes and the screening solutions supporting their security workforce.

In addition to existing checkpoints, technology such as advanced sensors, AI and biometrics can be deployed at the landside area of the airport to dramatically improve the customer experience of security, while improving security itself.

In this model, travelers walk through portable security gates before reaching terminal security. The advanced screening solutions can detect explosives and firearms in a rapid manner – without any of the false positives from items like keys, phone and belt buckles.  And, as threats evolve, solutions on the landside area of the airport become much more important.

These technologies have also proven incredibly effective in employee screening deployments at airports such as Oakland International.

In addition, advanced weapon and bomb protection improves security throughput dramatically – with fewer requirements for manual labor. This allows airports to allocate security personnel to where they can have the most visible and positive effect – and helps eliminate customer experience concerns caused by workforce issues.

There’s no doubt that TSA agents were in a difficult situation, being forced to work without pay. But this broader issue has shined a light on the ongoing security problem that airports struggle with. Advanced screening technology can be used in critical areas throughout an airport, helping balance security needs with the requirements to provide superior customer service.

Photo Credit: Floris Van Cauwelaert

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