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An overview of Brazilian Airport security

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24 December 2022

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For Issue 6 2022, International Airport Review Editor, Holly Miles caught up with Robson Freitas, Head of Operations, Security and Emergency at BH Airport. Freitas discussed how cyber‑security is, more than ever, a crucial issue for airports, as well as the battle with unruly passenger behaviour.

What are the major issues currently affecting airports relating to security?

Since the events of 9/11, airports have continued to focus their efforts on preventing acts of unlawful interference, particularly with weapons and explosives. The regulatory framework in this field has expanded considerably around the world, either nationally, through international co‑operation/agreements, or through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Annex 17 of the Chicago Convention and the Universal Security Audit Program (USAP).

Additionally, airport operators are required to establish and maintain a security programme covering their activities. These programmes are subject to quality control and regular audits. Specific measures are taken to prevent unlawful interferences, such as:

  • Access control: This includes security measures like perimeter fences and ID systems, that separate airside operations and restrict passenger access to security areas
  • Aircraft security: This includes preventing entry into the aircraft by unauthorised persons and making sure no personal items are left behind by passengers
  • Security inspection process: Hand luggage and passenger screening before departure
  • Hold baggage: Subject to screening. Operators would not normally transport the baggage of a person that is not on board the aircraft
  • Special categories of passengers: These include security measures for transporting potentially unruly passengers.

What trends are you seeing coming through with passengers that may pose a security risk?

It is not necessarily the passengers’ belongings or luggage, more the passengers’ behaviour. I’m talking about the unruly passenger.

In cases where a passenger has displayed aggressive or violent behaviour onboard aircraft and at airports, serious damage is caused to airline operations, including delays, cancellations, and the use of alternative airports, interfering with flight safety, airport security and the wellbeing of other passengers. As for airports, these situations occur during the X-ray inspection process, in commercial operations, in VIP lounges and in other airport facilities.

The more automated the baggage handling process, the higher the level of security”

Data gathered by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) indicates that in 2022, 2,178 unruly passenger occurrences were recorded, involving different forms of aggression, threats, intimidation, or interference with crew members during a flight. In Brazil, data from the airline association indicates that there were 304 recorded occurances in 2019, and 222 in 2020, despite the reduced number of flights due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the occurrences were due to disrespect for the rules on-board the aircraft.

There are three categories of occurrences with unruly passengers, whether they are boarding, on‑board on the ground or in flight.

Category 1

The passenger generates minor inconveniences, such as minor problems when boarding or on‑board, but these are situations that can be quickly controlled by teams from companies and airports, without the need for police intervention.

Category 2

These are situations that affect safety, with the passenger disregarding the instructions of the crew.

They may require the support of the airport supervisor or security to restrain the passenger.

Category 3

Deeply affects security, as the passenger develops aggressive and violent behaviour, even attacking employees.

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