Two of our recent blogs looked at different angles of airport security. One looked at the widespread and infamous “pat down”, and the other looked at the expanding range of devices used in airports around the world.
Then we asked the question … how do governments try to strike the right balance between an individual’s freedom of movement and public security?
Clearly there are many angles to this one question given the sheer volume of airport passengers, the different countries involved the scope of potential threats. And each angle represents a form of trade-off that has to be made. For example:
- balancing passenger safety and passenger rights;
- maximizing security resources (both human and financial) amidst government austerity;
- supporting the airline industry and cracking down on significant and expensive-to-combat security threats.
A recent article in the Huffington Post speaks directly to problems that governments, airports and security personnel all face in handling aspects of these trade-offs.
The main mission of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is to keep weapons and explosives off of airplanes — a mandate that has led to the rise of full-body scanners, banned liquids, intrusive pat-downs and complaints over profiling.
Meanwhile in the UK, the massive security effort surrounding the recent Diamond Jubilee – including a huge increase in airport security – is more or less a warm-up to the even-larger security demands stemming from the upcoming Olympics.
In one recent article out of London, for example, the Director General of the UK Border Force said that security line-ups of up to four hours or more at Heathrow Airport may not be uncommon.
For the British government, handling the security concerns of the world’s largest event – the Olympics – will clearly impact hundreds of thousands of airport travellers, some of whom are not even going to see the athletes.
Yet security personnel in Britain insist that things will be as normal as possible for all travellers during the Olympics.
In an article recently published in the London Evening Standard, Nick Cole, head of Olympic and Paralympic planning at Heathrow, said that as the official host airport for the Olympics, around 80% of all visitors will pass through in a “unique operational challenge”.
For reference, August 13 will see more passengers and bags than Heathrow has ever had in a single day, he said. The airport expects to process 137,800 people leaving on that day, and 200,000 bags instead of an average of 150,000 on a normal day. The huge numbers have prompted fears over queuing and security, and reassurances that the airport can handle them came as Home Secretary Theresa May was forced to defend issues at the UK’s borders.
So the key message for those concerned about airport security during the Olympics?
Watch them at home in the safety of your own home.
But if you have to go, be prepared for some understandable delays. It’s a trade-off worth making