An overview of Brazilian Airport security


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.

The greatest challenge facing the aviation industry today is identifying how to increase security measures at airports while reducing inconvenience to passengers”

The final two categories, which represent most situations, may need police intervention to be circumvented, as is the case when a passenger needs to be escorted off the flight so the plane can proceed safely. The Brazilian Association of Airlines has worked together with the National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC) to develop a regulation on unruly passengers and recently has approved a new version of the National Civil Aviation Security Program against Acts of Illicit Interference (PNAVSEC).

What technology do you think will be disrupting the security space the most in 2023?

To respond to these increased challenges, airports have raised their security measures using new innovations in video surveillance technology and advanced video analytics by artificial intelligence (AI). Airport authorities have also enhanced their infrastructure to evolve in smart facilities. As airports raise their security and infrastructure to new heights, new challenges have arisen.

With studies showing that the airport security process is the largest frustration for travellers at the airport, there is a great demand for innovation within this sector. The greatest challenge facing the aviation industry today is identifying how to increase security measures at airports while reducing inconvenience to passengers.

Many companies and organisations around the world are dedicating their time and resources to providing solutions and we are now beginning to see new advances in airport technology. To put things into perspective, the value of the global airport security market is expected to exceed $12.8 billion by 2023, according to a new report by independent researcher Global Market Insights, demonstrating the importance of this issue.

What does the security experience look like for passengers travelling through airports in Brazil?

Brazilian airports have a high level of security. Brazilian Airports have a robust security plan and interactions with security agencies. There is even a case in Brazil in which the partnership led to the creation of the Integrated Public Security Center that integrates, wherein the same space, and services offered by the public security and social defence forces at the state and federal levels.

The proposal is to reduce crime rates and expand the practicality, quality of service, agility and safety of the public inside the terminal that can circulate more than 30,000 people daily.

Biometric technology is becoming increasingly popular in airports around the world…The self‑service solution provides a better travel experience for passengers, while also enabling high‑level automated security checks”

Also, the airports carry out a strict monitoring routine through high-tech cameras, heritage and security patrols, abandoned items, and combating unauthorised transport of passengers. I must also highlight the accurate planning and operation of passenger inspection points, which ensure the criteria required by the Civil Aviation Administration (ANAC) and preserve a pleasant and cordial experience for passengers.

Some airports also have a representative in the Brazilian Aviation Security Team (BASeT). BASeT aims to:

Plan and guide the civil aviation sector by defining an agenda of national actions and projects on Civil Aviation Security against Acts of Illicit Interference – AVSEC, in line with the Global Civil Aviation Security Plan (GASeP), to promote the technical evolution of Aviation Security (AVSEC) – in Brazil

Promote collaborative interaction, the production of technical material and the development of joint projects on AVSEC between ANAC, its regulators and other interested parties

Enable the collection and exchange of information, data and indicators by the sector’s agents, with the aim of providing better analyses, diagnoses and definition of goals for the AVSEC system.

We are always in line with the topics through discussions, pilot projects and regulatory improvements, which welcomes enormous benefits and raises the level of security to our passengers.

What does Brazil’s airports’ technology roadmap look like for security?

In general, Brazilian airports are focused on various technological solutions, but I would like to highlight:

Facial recognition: Biometric technology is becoming increasingly popular in airports around the world, providing a streamlined, paperless and efficient boarding experience. The self-service solution provides a better travel experience for passengers, while also enabling high-level automated security checks.

Today, cybersecurity is, more than ever, a crucial issue for airports”

The airports are preparing to advance with this technology through the Brazilian government project called Embarque +Seguro, but still need to be clarified some definitions from the federal government, especially with regard to the federal transfer of the costs of exchanging data and information through the government network.

Security inspection of checked domestic baggage: Recently, the Chamber of Deputies, Brazil has discussed how the country has become an attractive target for terrorist threats from both external and internal sources. Thus, the Brazilian project law 4257/21 has enforced mandatory inspection of checked baggage on domestic flights from August 2023 onwards.

This new requirement made all Brazilian airports begin studies for the construction of spaces and the acquisition of BHS equipment by August 2023 and airlines must start inspection activity until August 2024. The inspection checks will ensure the segregation process is faster, reduces the possibility of damage and mishandled baggage and increases security since there is no human interference. The more automated the baggage handling process, the higher the level of security.

Security threats are constantly evolving, what do you think the next threat will be?

Today, cybersecurity is, more than ever, a crucial issue for airports. From protecting passengers and employees against acts of unlawful interference, to enforcing governmental and local rules, airport security personnel must evolve in a fast-paced environment to mitigate security breaches and other critical security challenges. Airports cause international disruption and that makes them an attractive target as they create big attention-grabbing news. This is not just about costs, there are so many motivations, both financial and political.

Both the Airports Council International (ACI) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) have published materials about the topic:

The Cybersecurity Implementation Handbook by ACI World: Helps airports understand best practices for addressing cybersecurity threats, from implementing a cybersecurity framework through to technical strategies

The Aviation Cyber Security – IATA Guidance Material: This high-level document was developed with IATA airline members and provides the operators with considerations on adopting a minimal cybersecurity posture to organisation and aircraft operations

Part 1: Organisation Culture and Posture relates to the cybersecurity of the organisation

Part 2: Aircraft relates to the cybersecurity of the aircraft and risk management.

IATA Security Management System (SeMS) Manual: The manual addresses a risk-based and data-driven approach. The SeMS Manual provides guidelines and measures over the cybersecurity governance, management and responsibilities; cybersecurity culture, awareness and training; cybersecurity risk management; and application of risk management concepts to cyber-threats and risks.

What’s keeping you awake at night?

Airport Security Officers are my main concern as it is specialised law enforcement work, which provides for the protection of civilian/commercial aviation passengers. This type of work involves specific security requirements, mainly for the inspection of passenger and hand baggage.
These professionals attend a regular training programme, where tests and simulations are contemplated to assess the accuracy of their decisions. Currently, AI software and algorithms have contributed to making this professional’s decision increasingly assertive, which raises the level of security at airports, considerably.

Another concern of mine is the human factor of these professionals, who, like us, have problems in their private lives. In other words, the managers of these teams need to be attentive to their mental behaviour so that it does not interfere with the routine and decision-making regarding the inspection of people and their respective hand baggage.


Robson Freitas began his career as Flight Operations Office during the early 2000s and worked for the main Brazilian airlines. He worked at the FIFA World Cup Organising Committee Brazil, where he was responsible for supporting all Nation Teams air operations. Also, during the RIO2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, he was responsible for the tactical operation of the Airport Operations Center at Rio de Janeiro International Airport.

Since 2018, he is Head of Operations, Security, and Airport Emergencies responsible for overseeing the day to-day operations, also ensuring the high-quality customer experience, operational efficiency, the ACDM process and regulatory compliance. In 2022, he completed the Global ACI-ICAO Airport Management Professional Accreditation Programme (AMPAP) training, becoming the sixth Brazilian to receive this certification

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