The majority of emergency incidents occurring in airports are related to drunk and aggressive passengers, according to intermediate conclusions of the first in-depth study of European airports, conducted by the EU-funded BEMOSA Consortium.
The results will be presented at a special workshop hosted by BEMOSA in Brussels on March 19, 2012.
The report, which is based on 360 interviews held at eight different European airports, found that major security actions taken by airport security employees relate to confiscation of illegal items and dealing with unruly passengers.
Based on the interviews, BEMOSA researchers compiled a list of episodes representing different situations in which security agents were required to take a decision and act. The report indicates that 131 of all 369 reported critical incidents which represented a direct threat to safety stemmed from passengers carrying prohibited articles, including knives, guns and ammunition.
Ninety incidents involved unruly and disruptive people, mainly drunk passengers. These incidents caused major disruptions to security procedures as security personnel reported they often needed help from co-workers or the police when facing drunken people.
“The results illustrate the complexity of actual behaviour in airports. There is a definite need to improve security decision-making abilities as there is a gap between procedures and actual behaviour when a threat is recognized,” said the Technion Israel’s Prof. Alan Kirschenbaum, a world expert in disaster management and BEMOSA’s initiator and coordinator.
“Security decisions tend to be inconsistent as employees regard most threats as false alarms, have never faced a real threat and have pre-biased estimates of what constitutes a threat,” he said.
The report indicates that airport employees do not rely primarily on procedures or rules and more than one-third admitted they exceeded or bent the rules when the situation called for it. The interviews also revealed that employees’ concerns are not perceived to be terror related but are primarily passenger related.