How can airports optimize the security checkpoint operations with a third-party staff provider?


A large number of airports have outsourced their security operation to a third party staff provider, primarily with the aim of obtaining a lower cost of the security operation. The overall planning process remains the same but compared to a fully in-house operation; the outsourcing often leads to challenges.

Three primary models exist for how the split in responsibility is done between the airport operator and the staff provider.

1.   Performance driven


In this model, the airport states a performance requirement, say 85% of passengers within 10 minutes, with no passenger waiting more than 20 minutes. The staffing provider is responsible for forecasting the passenger presentation, determining the lane opening plan, and securing accurate staffing levels.

The airport typically pays on a per passenger basis under this model.



Clear responsibilities – security provider is in charge of the full process

If paid per passenger, staff provider is compensated for unforeseen growth



Third party provider assumes risk of lower throughput due to  a higher images per passenger ratio

Lack of ability to optimize planning

Incumbent provider will have a large advantage in a new tender

Ownership of data – third party provider needs data which is owned by the airport operator – and airport operator may need data owned by the third party provider


2.   Ordering passengers


In this model, the airport is ordering passengers to be processed – typically in 30-minute intervals across the day. Connected to the passengers to be processed is a requirement for a given performance in place. The staff provider must be able to process the ordered passengers in each 30-minute interval. If a lower number of passengers is processed and waiting time occurs, the staff provider is penalized for the poor performance.


Financially clear in that the airport operator pays for the passengers ordered


Creates suboptimal lane opening plans as the focus on 30-minute intervals is not in line with best practice security planning (longer periods of time must be considered to be in line with best practice)

Airport typically adding a significant buffer to the forecast to minimize the risk that forecasted passenger numbers are too low

Changes in images per passenger not accounted for by the model (increasing numbers will hurt the staff provider, decreasing numbers will hurt the airport operator)


3.   Ordering open lanes or hours


In this model, the airport orders a number of lanes to open across the day, alternatively a pool of lane hours to be distributed across the day. The staff provider must supply the staff required to open the lanes.



The airport operator can utilize operational data to create accurate lane opening plans

The airport operator is closely tied to the operation and can impact performance directly


The risk is on the airport operator regarding the accuracy of the lane opening plan

Real-time updates to the lane opening plan can be difficult for the staff provider to adhere to



In all models, there is a need for a common platform supporting the planning of the security process.
Copenhagen Optimization’s cloud-based solutions ‘Better Forecast’ and ‘Better Security’ ensure a clear methodology and communication for all parties involved in the Security checkpoint operation and thus enables a win-win situation for all parties in the process, including the passenger of course!

Want to learn more? Contact us at




AUTHOR: Kasper Hounsgaard
Kasper has a M.Sc. in Economics and has for years been a main driver in business development in Maersk, CPH Airport and Copenhagen Optimization. Kasper is a natural in identifying new areas of interest and has extensive experience in developing and implementing solutions with proven results. With responsibility for Consultancy and Business Development, Kasper excels in quickly understanding your challenges and adapting our ideas and experience to identify ways of overcoming the challenges.
  • Avatar
    Stuart Chambers

    Hi Sarah, read with interest your comments and question posed – essentially which operating model is best for cost optimisation and efficiency. However this does over look many input variables. Firstly airports dominated by LCC`s who want all the early morning slots simply overwhelm the total processing capacity of the security hall. That weather plays a significant part for sure in the UK where the average tray per pax rises when it rains and all this slows the processing rate down. Secondly that Ops Directors dial in 180 – 200 (max) per pax per hr per channel so that that down`t breach their SLA, but those figures are not sustainable. But the big issue is accurately forecasting capacity and pax flow. Many airports are in the high 90% when forecasting their throughput, but the nearer it becomes to departure time this figure drops so in the last 20 minutes of that hour forecast the accuracy drops away significantly. And this is for a lot of reasons, traffic jams , transit buses running slowly etc.

    The primary arguement is not about which operating model its about getting the data accurate on which to allocate resource. Then ask our question.

    Most airport capacity forecasts are highly accurate a month, week several hours out, but with 20 minutes to go that accuracy falls away and that coupled with LCC flight schedules and insufficient processing capacity are why you get queues..



    June 30, 2017
    • Avatar
      Sarah Frances Procter

      Hi Stuart, Thanks for commenting on our blog and for sharing your valuable input.
      The weather – well the weather I’m afraid we cannot do much about… However, accurately forecasting passenger flows we have proved can be done achieving significantly higher precision than previously. We do this through utilizing all the data sources that are often overlooked such as boarding card scans to fully understand when a passenger presents themselves and data from x-ray machines to measure images and correctly understand throughput rates. Furthermore, it is essential as you say to review and update the forecast the closer you move to execution day & hour. Ensuring that flight schedules can seamlessly be important to capture all last minute changes and impacts is key. Last but not least all of above-mentioned improvements can only be handled effeciently if airports move away from Excel and to a more sustainable innovative platform. Better Forecast might be the tool that airports are looking for?

      July 3, 2017

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