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Airport Security Environment and Passenger Stress

Introduction

Transport hubs and routes are in principle associated with particular safety concerns, as transport accidents are frequent causes of injury and death of passengers. At the same time, the airport administration is especially diligent in ensuring passenger safety. Numerous checks and security measures can cause anxiety among people, as they are perceived to be connected with increased danger. Therefore, airport operators are concerned about developing solutions to reduce passenger stress and create a calming environment. This paper analyzes the objectively required level of airport security and examines passenger anxiety factors and methods of reducing stress.

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Necessary Security Measures

Several measures are required to ensure a minimum level of safety at airports. They aim, among other things, to prevent illegal border crossings or smuggling, but the main danger is the threat of terrorist attacks. In addition, some actions are intended to prevent aviation accidents, such as weight restrictions on baggage. Traditional measures include document examination, identity verification, luggage inspection, video surveillance, and the presence of security personnel. It should be emphasized that “strict regulations were enforced after the 9/11 terrorist attacks” (Wattanacharoensil et al., 2016, p. 325). First, the airport personnel began to investigate more thoroughly the reasons and purposes of the trip, as well as the motivation of the travelers and tourists. For this reason, airport checks may sometimes appear similar to interviews. Second, according to Hall (2015), “individual scanning by surveillance technologies like full-body scanners or metal detectors” have been introduced at airports (p. 123). These activities require more time and, most significantly, may cause increased stress levels in people.

It should be noted that various states and international airports have different security standards, varying according to the number and severity of measures implemented. All traditional measures, including video surveillance and verification of luggage and documents, are recognized by the vast majority of airport operators as necessary and reasonable. At the same time, activities such as full-body scanning are recognized by some professionals as redundant. For instance, according to Hall (2015), “Belgium’s secretary of state for transport described such measures as ‘excessive’,” and Spain representatives doubted their necessity (p. 160). Moreover, these regulations cause anxiety among passengers who perceive them as a confirmation of the danger of this transport. Therefore, the stressful experiences of people require special consideration and appropriate response.

Passenger Anxiety

It should be noted that other factors also cause increased anxiety levels of passengers. Researchers point out that psychological pressure is amplified by the fear of missing a flight or losing luggage and concerns about weather conditions and flight safety (Wattanacharoensil et al., 2016). However, “anxiety from facing a highly restricted/controlled condition both from the process and personal interaction such as at the immigration and security” remains a major cause of increased stress (Wattanacharoensil et al., 2016, p. 326). For these reasons, the number of people who are willing to enjoy airline services is decreasing. This is particularly relevant at the current time, as, by the end of the official pandemic, the fear of contracting the virus will be added to the anxiety factors mentioned above. Anti-infection security measures adopted may increase stress levels even further.

It should also be noted that the perception of an airport as safe differs in various transport points. Researchers have discovered that Americans generally consider national airports to be safe, including Hartsfield Jackson – Atlanta International Airport, Miami International Airport, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, and Los Angeles International Airport (Bogicevic et al., 2016). Besides, measures taken by operators of Hong Kong International Airport and Suvarnabhumi Airport are reducing passenger stress (Wattanacharoensil et al., 2016). At the same time, it should be stated that the “anxiety levels of Muslim and African passengers are higher than those European passengers” (Ergun et al., 2017, p. 89). These findings may be due to both cultural peculiarities in the perception of passengers of certain nations, as well as differences in approaches of airport administrations. Therefore, researchers focus on investigating and identifying those activities that contribute to reducing anxiety and fear associated with airport security.

Stress Alleviation

Airport operators use a variety of methods to trigger calming emotions among passengers. It was confirmed that servicescape attributes have a significant effect on people’s perceptions and feelings (Bogicevic et al., 2016). It may appear to be counterintuitive that music does not have much effect in this regard, but researchers note that design and scent contribute most to traveler enjoyment. Bogicevic et al. (2016) state that “the presence of hedonic stimuli is paramount, even in an extremely serviceable environment, such as an airport” (p. 127). Environmental cues associated with positive feelings and sensations create an atmosphere of security and help passengers feel comfortable. Furthermore, functional organization, air, and lighting of the airport are essential factors of stress decreasing (Bogicevic et al., 2016). Functional organization refers to the convenience of navigation and orientation, as well as an intuitive system of signs that reduce the feeling of confusion.

It should also be mentioned that airport operators follow modern tendencies related to customer involvement and value co-creation. Maintaining passenger confidence in air transport safety requires establishing an open dialogue between professionals and clients. It is generally arranged through “social forums, which can take place in the social media platforms set up by the airport” (Wattanacharoensil et al., 2016, p. 328). In this way, passengers can get answers to all their questions in advance through direct communication with airport staff or Q&A services. Another significant factor in decreasing anxiety is face-to-face service encounters at airports themselves (Wattanacharoensil et al., 2016). Direct communication with airline staff allows passengers to deal with possible prejudices or concerns more efficiently.

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Conclusion

It should be noted that most of the measures taken by airport operators to maintain transport security are appropriate and reasonable. Visible signs of safety concerns can cause anxiety to the passenger, which contributes to an increase in overall stress levels. However, airport administrations successfully use servicescape attributes and establish a dialogue with potential customers to trigger calming emotions for people at the airport.

References

Bogicevic, V., Yang, W., Cobanoglu, C., Bilgihan, A., & Bujisic, M. (2016). Traveler anxiety and enjoyment: The effect of airport environment on traveler’s emotions. Journal of Air Transport Management, 57, 122-129.

Ergun, N., Acikel, B. Y., & Turhan, U. (2017). The appropriateness of today’s airport security measures in safeguarding airline passengers. Security Journal, 30(1), 89-105.

Hall, R. (2015). The transparent traveler: The performance and culture of airport security. Duke University Press.

Wattanacharoensil, W., Schuckert, M., & Graham, A. (2016). An airport experience framework from a tourism perspective. Transport Reviews, 36(3), 318-340.

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