On the one hand, the aviation sector is synonymous with being at the forefront of security technology – from biometrics being used at passport control, to the latest developments at Changi Airport and the aquarium tunnel at Dubai Airport. On the other, with the risk of insider threats are greater than ever, airports also need to know who has access to their high risk environment. So it might seem surprising to learn that the industry still relies on paper-based systems to administer security checks on airport staff.
Is paper the best way to achieve this?
The challenge that airports face when vetting workers is one of historical process. Yet, despite airports being technology driven, ID pass offices are still working on archaic, paper-based systems that are inefficient, time-consuming and by their nature inherently difficult to make any updates to address new security concerns.
Regulations stipulate that airports vet all permanent and temporary staff for either landside or airside employment, a procedure carried out by the airport pass office, which has historically been a paper-based process. This results in a significant drain on resources as it takes time to check every paper-based application, contact signatories when inaccuracies are found in the data supplied and all this has to happen before vetting can begin. It is not uncommon for the initial application to include errors, or illegible writing such that they have to be rejected, slowing the process down for that particular applicant. Subsequently, it is predicted that up to 30% of initial applications are rejected.
Can technology help?
A technology solution which enables the pass office to offer an on-line tool to process applications is one way in which time and resources can be reduced. The system enables the pass office to set up signatories for the various companies that require passes so they can apply as and when they are required. The same system can also help validate the information required, by policy, relevant to each pass type, ensuring that every application issued is traceable and transparent in terms of auditability.
Why is this level of transparency important?
Compliance is critical for the pass offices. Periodically, an airport will be inspected to ensure that it is compliant, with auditors taking a snapshot of application packs. If the pass office is utilising an online system, this auditing process becomes much simpler and applications can be stored electronically rather than in paper form. It also creates less of a physical storage issue as applications must currently be stored for seven years requiring significant amounts of storage space.
What other benefits does an online system offer?
Online systems enhance the role of security, enabling the pass offices to focus on the priority of their job of vetting and issuance. Because all signatories are given their own unique login details, the digital platform can track every application through the logins and provide auditable and traceable data for any required compliance inspection.
Having an online system also enables changes to the application process to be systematically communicated to all signatories or pre-notification of system changes to be advised. This has previously been problematic with paper-based systems. Therefore, one of the key benefits realised is that the time and effort spent on each application can be significantly reduced for both the signatory and the ID pass office.
What is the future for technology in pre-airport vetting?
The industry needs to accept that it has to make the on-boarding of its workers as efficient and as effective as taking passengers through the airport journey. There will always be the need to keep records and ensure that airports are compliant with the very latest regulations, and technology can really help to make this as seamless as possible. The adoption of technology also enables new capabilities to be realised including self-pass printing or additional vetting checks which enables ID Centres to not only increase the number of passes processed but also ensure security compliance is above the required standards. Any airport that isn’t incorporating this type of solution will eventually find itself racing to catch up with those who have adopted technology early.