For an airport that experienced a nearly 50% increase in passenger traffic in 2016, upgrading to a Standard 3-approved explosives detection system (EDS) has delivered many benefits.
“We immediately saw a significant improvement in throughput,” explains Newquay’s managing director Al Titterington. “It’s now a far better security process as well as a much better customer experience.”
A former RAF base that became a civilian airport in 2008, Newquay serves Cornwall’s population of more than 550,000 for both business and leisure travel. As managing director of the first airport in the United Kingdom to meet the Department for Transport (DfT) mandate that all airports be equipped with Standard-3 EDS machines, Al has some advice to share with other small and regional airports in the EU.
“The EU deadline of 2020 is coming up faster than you think. There are definitely benefits from getting in line early. In the UK, all the airports responding by 2018 translates into upwards of 250 new machines that will need to be purchased.”
As you will have to meet the mandate anyway, start early to benefit from the new technology and ensure your suppliers are available.
“The biggest challenge is the capex. Bigger airports have more buying power and more flexibility. For small airports, the cost is tough.”
Are there other capital improvement projects that also need to be done? Can you find a partner who is willing to be flexible and move the budget around to assist in other areas?
“We didn’t just upgrade to a new EDS machine, we also updated the BHS system and conveyors, the central search-cabin-baggage machines, and the archway metal detectors. This created a much smoother process overall.”
As changing the security system means updating the BHS system, make sure you find a partner who can lead and/or work closely with other suppliers.
“You need the reassurance you have a competent contractor that can chase items through the supply chain, resolve problems quickly, and stay on budget and on schedule.”
Select a partner who understands the needs of a small airport, can act as the prime contractor, and is willing to offer that “personal touch and attention” to be there every step of the way.
“Our passengers coming in from the bigger hubs expect a consistent experience. Our airline partners have tight turnarounds. We need to meet the needs of both.”
Don’t transfer the capex spend to opex and go with processes that are more manually intensive. It made good business sense for us to invest in the new equipment.
In the end, Al reports, “The new-generation technology makes everyone’s life easier. The HBS equipment is very user-friendly, staff love operating it, and we’ve had nothing but positive feedback on the overall security experience.”
Starting out as a dispatcher/baggage handler at Leeds Bradford Airport, Al Titterington has experience in all aspects of airport environments. He helped transition Doncaster Sheffield Airport into a civil operation, got Coventry Airport up and running, and in 2006 started working at Cornwall Airport Newquay in operations. In 2010, he was appointed managing director.