Airport security staff need to reassure – not bark at passengers

I USED to travel the world; around the world tickets every month or two, long-haul journeys for work and for pleasure most weeks, I knew the perfect seat on every aircraft and where in each business lounge to sit and why. I have therefore spent more time than most people in security areas in airports, and have observed good and bad behaviour of security staff. Today I experienced both, on a business trip to Europe.

Firstly, on arrival at Guernsey Airport, was the bad experience, I am afraid to say, whilst City Airport later restored my faith in human nature and in the innate empathy in all of us.

Airports are a stressful place for the average person – it is an unfamiliar environment in which you are powerless. It can feel intimidating. Staff need to reassure and be helpful. Instead what we all faced was being barked at, like it was a scene from a prison drama and we, the new inmates, needed to be taken down a peg or two.

It was instructions shouted into the air, like the drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket.

I’ve seen this type of approach many times before around the world, and it only leads to increased stress and tension among the passengers. I’ve seen it lead to passengers and staff facing off before now. This morning there was none of that, fortunately, but there was totally unnecessary and counter-productive tension and fear.

I realise staff think they are being helpful shouting out instructions, but it really isn’t conducive to cooperation and will not lead to calm and considerate passengers.

The contrast at London City could not have been more different. Staff quietly explained to passengers the new procedures (nothing out of your bag) and made sure everyone understood and had a chance to ask any questions. As people waited and went through security there were even a few smiles.

Shouting at people seldom is the answer, in any walk of life. Let’s leave it for the movies.


Guernsey Ports’ head of passenger operations and aviation security, Steve Langlois, replies:

Guernsey Ports is disappointed to hear of your correspondent’s recent experience of security at Guernsey Airport. A project is under way to install new scanning equipment in the security area. One of the aims of the project is to improve the overall customer experience of security for passengers. As part of the project, the queuing system for security has been moved into the former Covid-19 testing area of the terminal building. This area was selected to give passengers more time and space to organise themselves and their belongings for security screening, particularly at peak periods. We have received positive feedback from passengers on the temporary process and extended preparation space. We apologise if security staff appeared to shout or raise their voice excessively to convey instructions to passengers during your correspondent’s recent trip. We recognise that travelling through the airport, and security in particular, can be a stressful experience for some of our passengers. The team has discussed the issues your correspondent has raised and are making changes to how information is communicated to passengers whilst they are preparing to travel through the security area.

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