Risk based screening for a more secure aviation network

Passenger growth is expected to double by 2035, placing increasing pressure on the aviation network with passengers outstripping capacity. Airports, airlines, and regulators are looking at ways to support this increasing capacity by delivering operational efficiencies, improving the passenger experience and assuring the security outcome.

To gauge passenger expectations, every year, IATA publishes a Global Passenger Survey. According to the 2018 results, over 65% of passengers would be willing to provide more personal information as part of the travel process if this improved their experience. And over 45% of air travellers would choose biometric identification as a replacement to their passport.

Remarkably, over 150 airports already have biometric identification of some sort, and the pace of adoption is increasing. What’s even more interesting is that many airports are currently in the middle of transforming digitally with security being the most important area of focus within their programme.

The time has come to take security to a level where we bring together biometrics, integrated security screening technologies and artificial intelligence to deliver ‘risk based screening’ (RBS) – a data-led assessment that will allow enhanced screening for those who represent a higher risk and a more seamless journey for those passengers that represent low risk.

Risk based screening has been a topic of discussion within the aviation industry for a number of years. The US’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA) approaches RBS through Pre-Check, a security-screening programme that expedites the screening process at airports. After you have qualified for Pre-Check you receive expedited screening at the checkpoint. Those passengers seen as higher risk and become selectees are subjected to higher levels of screening.


The relevance of RBS to the aviation network is high as it can capture information once, which can then be used multiple times across the network to benefit stakeholders at departure, transit and arrival airports.

With RBS in place, airlines are able centralize Last Point of Departure (LPD) & More Stringent Measures (MSM) requirements back into central screening for efficiency and compliance. Airports are able to provide a more personalized and seamless passenger journey in an operationally efficient manner.

Regulators will be able to ensure security operators spend more time with the travellers they know least about or represent the highest risk and provide the best experience for those they know most about and are low risk. RBS also allows the system to flex and respond to dynamic threats being able to increase or streamline screening operations by individual passenger, flight or destination.

From enrolment, a passenger case would be created with biometric information (facial recognition or fingerprints) along with the passenger name record (PNR) or advance passenger information (API). This information could then be fused with third party data sources including watch lists to generate a data-based ‘risk score’.

Using artificial intelligence and machine learning, airport authorities would have a greater understanding of a passenger’s risk level.

A biometric enabled checkpoint would allow the association of the passenger and their trays. This is a key capability enabler for RBS as the passenger and their belongings can then be treated differently through the screening process depending on their risk score.


A critical element of risk based screening is to sift the haystack. Our vision for RBS is to empower airports and authorities to concentrate their time on those passengers they known least about or those who pose the highest risk. It will also ensure a smoother experience for those travellers who present low risk.

For an airport, this translates into smoother passenger flow and a better travel experience. It also allows both passengers and airlines greater opportunities for transit windows.

In the face of increasing air traffic, airports will need to focus on optimizing their built- environment and streamlining their operations, RBS provides these opportunities.

The future airport will be diversified, automated and passenger centric, and underpinned by secure and trusted data. There is an acknowledged shift in passenger expectations, with the ground experience becoming more important in the passenger journey. If airports want to align themselves with this shift in passenger expectations, RBS is modelled to pave the way.