Search
Close this search box.
Flag
Flag

Creating Inclusive Security: Designing Airports for All Passengers

Adult, Male, Man

The year 1914 marked the launch of the world’s first commercial passenger airline service, operating a route between St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida — only a 20-minute journey, costing USD 5 each way.

“What was impossible yesterday is an accomplishment today, while tomorrow heralds the unbelievable,” said Elliot Fansler, the founder of the service — and Fansler was absolutely right: Fast forward to 2024, the world of aviation looks almost unrecognizable compared to more than a century ago.

With more people than ever flying, the needs of travelers and the demands of airport security are evolving in tandem. Passengers today represent a wider spectrum of abilities and backgrounds, requiring security measures that are both comprehensive and inclusive.

This necessitates a shift from a “one-size-fits-all” approach to security screening, with a growing focus on accessibility features, technology that minimizes physical intrusion, and protocols that cater to passengers with sensory sensitivities or cognitive differences. In other words, these developments call out for the need of an inclusive approach to security.

There are nearly 100,000 commercial flights per day, and the figures are increasing steadily: Despite a dip due to the COVID-19 pandemic, daily air traffic is projected to reach at least 200,000 flights by the mid-2030s, reflecting a doubling in size in merely a decade.

Inclusive Airport Security: Designing for Diverse Needs

It’s imperative for architects and construction companies to prioritize accessibility features when designing security checkpoints to accommodate the diverse needs of today’s travelers. This includes physical accessibility features like wide lanes for wheelchairs, lowered counters, and clear signage with raised lettering and Braille. Additionally, ample seating with armrests throughout the waiting area allows passengers to rest comfortably.

For passengers with neurodivergences or sensory sensitivities, designated quiet zones or sensory rooms can offer a calming refuge. Adjustable lighting and the availability of noise-canceling headphones can further help to reduce overstimulation.

Finally, clear and concise signage with pictograms can be easily understood by passengers with learning disabilities. Pre-recorded information videos explaining the security process can also be helpful, along with dedicated staff readily available to assist passengers with procedures.

Technology Emerges As an Ally for Inclusive Airport Security

Technology is playing an increasingly important role in creating a more inclusive security experience for all passengers. Advanced scanners that minimize physical pat-downs offer a significant benefit for those with mobility limitations or anxiety. These scanners can reduce discomfort and physical strain, while also potentially expediting the security process for everyone.

Furthermore, virtual queuing systems can significantly reduce stress for travelers by managing wait times more efficiently.  By allowing passengers to virtually join a line and receive updates on their estimated wait time, these systems can help alleviate the anxiety often associated with crowded checkpoints

Finally, self-service screening kiosks with adjustable interfaces empower passengers to navigate the security process independently. These kiosks offer a sense of control and can be particularly helpful for those who may require assistance but prefer to manage the process themselves.

Safety and Comfort in Ever-Expanding Skies of Tomorrow

In the early days of air travel, even seatbelts were considered optional — and it was only in the late 1990s when smoking inside planes was banned. Likewise, security measures in airports used to be a lot more minimalistic, and didn’t even include metal detectors before the 1970s.

Nevertheless, in a changing world, by prioritizing accessibility features, leveraging innovative technologies, and fostering a welcoming environment for all, airports can ensure a smooth and secure travel experience for everyone. This commitment to inclusivity is not just the right thing to do, it’s essential for navigating the ever-expanding skies of tomorrow.

Related articles

“[T]he role of the city is to make the lives of the people as easy and pleasant as possible,” said former Helsinki....