West Terminal – Bristol Airport: Transforming the airport experience

Aviation Case Study

Transforming the airport experience.

Impressive new West Terminal at Bristol Airport combines a spacious feel, streamlined process and the latest generation of security technology.

Bristol Airport has taken a huge step towards its vision of providing people from the South West of England and Wales with a world-class customer experience when flying in and out of their local airport. The new £24 million (€28m) West Terminal extension has been designed to transform the security-screening process for departing passengers and also to attract more airlines to fly from Bristol.

Seven million passengers use Bristol every year, but  go to airports in the South East. By raising the bar for the regional alternative, Bristol aims to offer time and cost savings for travellers and, at the same time, free up capacity in the congested London airport system. The West Terminal extension is part of development plans to enable 10 million passengers a year to use the airport — the largest in the South West and England’s third busiest outside of London.

To deliver an industry-leading passenger experience, the brief was very demanding. Security-technology providers were expected not only to maximize the use of state-of-the-art equipment, but also ensure it blended into the relaxing ambiance created by designers inspired by the region’s natural beauty. The look and feel of the security checkpoint was particularly important as it is traditionally seen as a stress point in the journey from kerb to gate.

“This development addresses changes in security requirements, airline business models and passenger behaviour which have resulted in more hand baggage being carried through our central search area,” explained Chris Morgan, head of security at Bristol Airport. “It allowed us to design new layout and processes tailored to meet this challenge and also retain the flexibility to adapt to evolving security needs without inconveniencing passengers.”

COMPLIANT, EFFICIENT AND AN EXCEPTIONAL EXPERIENCE

The 9,000m² building features a significantly larger checkpoint screening facility using the very latest equipment to deliver a faster, more efficient service for departing passengers — and completely revolutionize this fundamental part of the airport experience without compromising stringent security-compliance requirements.

A perfect blend of design, space management and new technology, the facilities include 10 long (23m) security lanes plus two dedicated fast-track zones due to go live towards the end of 2016 . There is a designated preparation area for passengers to get their belongings ready for screening. An automated tray-return system with extended conveyor belts provides smooth progress through metal detectors, X-rays and security scanners as required. All of this against the backdrop of Europe’s largest digital wall, measuring 14 metres in length and displaying a mix of information on overseas destinations and short films featuring inspirational journeys made by local people.

“By considering the complete passenger journey through the airport with particular focus on the security screening as a critical point, we have been able to produce a more attractive and comfortable environment, along with a technical solution which helps to remove some of the stress often associated with air travel,” added Robert Sinclair, chief executive of Bristol Airport. “I believe we have achieved three fundamental objectives: effective, compliant security; operational efficiency; and an exceptional passenger experience.”

STEPPING UP TO THE CHALLENGES

At the core of the new checkpoint security process are a range of X-ray baggage-screening systems from Smiths Detection – where production schedules were reorganized to accommodate the very tight deadlines created by a rolling installation programme. In order to have ten lanes up and running for the busy summer 2016 period, they were opened one at a time while work continued on the remainder behind dividing walls — creating both operational and time pressures. With aesthetic appeal such an important factor, the X-ray equipment was given specially produced white cladding to blend into the surroundings.

All 12 lanes feature HI-SCAN 6040aTiX baggage-screening systems with automatic explosives detection — including a bigger model designed to take baby buggies, wheelchairs or any other particularly large items not destined for the hold. The Smiths Detection Checkpoint.Evo software solution connects the scanners to a remote, central screening location where decisions can be made without the distractions of a busy checkpoint. Images are automatically collected from all security lanes and delivered to the next available operator. Trays are then either sent through to the passenger or automatically diverted to a recheck area — here operators may do a manual search, test for traces of explosives or take a closer look using one of seven, slightly smaller HI-SCAN 6040i and HI-SCAN 6046si X-ray scanners.

A COLLABORATIVE ENDEAVOUR

With no external prime contractor, the key suppliers needed to be flexible and co-operate with each other to ensure everything came together efficiently, in the right place and at the right time. Smiths Detection collaborated with all three delivery teams, passing the site-acceptance tests and resolving any issues quickly so each milestone could be reached and delivery schedules met.

Integration between the lanes and X-ray systems was central to a smooth, flowing process — making it essential for Smiths Detection to work closely with the lane provider and fully test the integrated equipment before it arrived on site.

FUTURE PLANS

The scanning systems from Smiths Detection were provided with a clear upgrade path, particularly important with equipment certification for the new EDS standards for cabin baggage due early in 2017. Although dependent on the outcome of the certification process, it is very likely the existing equipment at Bristol will require only a straightforward software upgrade to comply with EDS C2, which means electronic devices can be screened without removing them from baggage.

Once the systems required for EDS C3 compliance are ready for the market and certified, the existing X-ray scanners could be replaced by equipment featuring CT technology with minimal impact on the new lane design. At this stage, both electronic devices and liquids will be left inside baggage for screening.

While the priority of this first phase of development addressed bottlenecks for departing passengers, the arrivals experience will also benefit from an enlarged baggage-reclaim area, customs facilities and a meet-and-greet area due early in 2017.