Welcome back to Check-in. Regular listeners will be familiar with our discussions about the development of passenger checkpoints, and how CT technology can be integrated. In this episode, we’re going to look at the ‘security lane of the future’.
To help us assess what will be possible in the coming years, we’re delighted to be joined by special guest Jonas Mark, who is the Head of Security Operations & Development at Copenhagen Airport in Denmark.
A – Hello there, and welcome back to Check-in… the Vanderlande airports podcast.
If you’re a regular listener, many thanks for being with us on our journey to explore the latest developments in the aviation industry.
In this episode, we’re returning to one of the more vital areas of an airport – the security checkpoint.
As you may recall from previous episodes, we’ve already discussed the development of passenger checkpoints, and how CT technology can be integrated.
Now we’re going to look at the ‘security lane of the future’.
To help us assess what will be possible in the coming years, I’m pleased to say that today’s guest is Jonas Mark. Jonas is the Head of Security Operations & Development at Copenhagen Airport.
So, let’s go ahead and collect Jonas from our virtual departures lounge… Jonas, hello thank you for joining us on Check-in today.
J – Hey Andy. Nice to meet you and thank you for having me.
A – So, how are things with you… I believe you’re joining us from Denmark?
J – I’m joining you from Denmark, just outside Copenhagen, where I am – as many others – working from home these days. It’s been the life for the last year or so.
A – Yeah, a life we’re all getting pretty much familiar with, unfortunately. So, for the benefit of our listeners Jonas, can you introduce yourself? Tell us a bit about your role and responsibilities at Copenhagen Airport.
J – Sure. My name is Jonas, and I’m currently head of security operations and development at Copenhagen Airport. It’s a small specialised team of nerds, and we’re responsible for the security quality and the development of our security operations at Copenhagen Airport. Probably not your typical profile for a job like that. I have a background in the Danish armed forces, I originally trained as a captain in the Danish air force, and as such, I’m not a very business-oriented type. I tend to put my focus on passenger and staff experience, and actually, funnily enough, the business case kind of follows that. So, when we have happy staff and happy passengers, usually you have a great business case. So, yeah, that’s me.
A – I don’t think I’ve ever met in my travels a self-confessed nerd who was an air force captain, Jonas… so, I think it’s a pleasant first for me.
J – Then I’m happy to be a pleasant first.
A – So, tell us about your airport, Jonas. What is unique about Copenhagen compared to other European airports, perhaps.
J – I think one of the things that sets us apart is that we’re primarily privately owned. Which allows us to be a bit more flexible in our approach to the industry and partner up with industry partners, and as such, be ‘first movers’. That’s definitely one thing. And I think that one thing that really sets us apart is that we always, in everything we do, put the passenger in the centre of our attention and build from there. We actually have one of our strategic pillars we call ‘safe journey’. It covers the security side of things, the flight safety side of things, but primarily it also covers the passengers being able to feel safe while at the airport, and of course when they go fly as well. That’s really a central focus for everybody at CPH, and I think that way of thinking sets us apart.
A – And what type of airport would you describe it as? Is it a transit hub or is it more of a large regional? What kind of typical traveller do you get coming through your gates?
J – We get a lot of different types of traveller. Everything from cruise ships, frequent flyers, leisure travellers. And we’re in the ‘regional hub’ category, we have a lot of transfer and – before COVID at least – a very expanded long haul traffic. So, a lot of regional flights from the different smaller airports in Europe, then we have a large long haul segment as well.
Ok, and – well, I’m going to ask this question – in 2019, and I deliberately put that year to you, what were the average passenger numbers at Copenhagen?
J – We were doing roughly 30 million passengers a year. Which made us quite a large hub in our little region. As you know, COVID hit us very hard like the rest of the industry, we were back to square one. So, COVID has been very hard on us. But, at the same time, I think it allowed us to rethink our entire company… to look at how can we come back even stronger when this is all over, and we’ve actually formulated it under a catchphrase – ‘don’t restart, renew’. So, that’s very much top of mind, how can we – as we see light at the end of the tunnel – come back even stronger. Our ambition is come back to 30 million, and then build on that towards 50-55 million at some point.
A – Wow, it’s fascinating to hear… and you hear this story from other industries as well, where they’ve used COVID – yes, it’s been challenging – but they’ve used it as an opportunity to rethink, as you’ve mentioned, their strategies. Because they were so busy before, particularly airports… I mean, we all know the set-up at an airport… it’s like you don’t have time to think. Someone told me on my travels once, that an airport is just a constant construction site, and that’s often the case isn’t it. So, I guess you’ve felt that… in putting the brakes on, you’ve thought about where you need to go… and it’s almost double! You expect to be double from 30 to 55… and you don’t achieve that without having a bit of a rethink about what you need to do to get there of course.
J – Exactly. And I think one of the things we’ve done during this crisis is looking at that a crisis can sometimes bring out the best in people and companies. We’ve used it to become more lean and more agile, more adaptable, and also at the same time strengthen our relationship with our partners, our airlines, third parties and everyone we need “on our team” to make it happen when all this pandemic stuff blows by, because it’s a new world we’re looking into… COVID is probably not the last pandemic we’ll ever see, so we need to be prepared for the next one, and make sure it won’t set us back like this one did. So, in my mind at least, we are well positioned for the road to recovery, and as we’ve always been at Copenhagen Airport, we’re very ambitious on our plans for the future.
A – Excellent, so, well we’ve got the elephant in the room out of the way, which is COVID-19, so I guess we can move on to more of the fun stuff now, Jonas. So, I read quite a lot that Copenhagen is a very forward-looking airport – and I think that’s how you refer to yourself – tell us a little bit about Copenhagen’s vision on innovation.
J – I don’t think we have an actual, formulated vision on innovation at CPH… it’s very much integrated into everything we do. And from my point of view, it starts with the Nordic way of thinking, you might say. Dated way back in our history, our Vikings were very… you could call them ‘entrepreneurs’ perhaps – as a nation, we’ve always been very creative and open to ideas, and as such, not too hung up on structures and hierarchy. So, everything is a good idea at CPH if it’s viable, and it comes from basically a need that… basically, we’re not so many people in Denmark, we’re a small country and our airport is operated by a fairly small number of operators, mainly also because staff is so expensive. So, we are actually forced to be thinking creatively, innovating, and be very smart about everything we’re doing. It comes quite naturally to us. And I think one thing that also influences our vision on innovation is that we don’t keep ourselves – or limit ourselves – in the CPH box. We tend to think outside of our own box. As an example, back in 2018, we thought of a strategic initiative on getting more bio-fuel into the industry. And instead of focusing on how we at CPH buy more bio-fuel and put it into the aircraft and everybody will clap their hands… we said that’s way too unambitious. So, we went into a collaboration across the entire supply chain, from producing bio-fuel to how does it get transported in an environmentally friendly manner, what kind of infrastructure do we need on site at CPH… having a dialogue with different aircraft manufacturers on how can we enable aircraft engines to be able to be even more bio-fuel adaptable. So, we actually go across the entire industry. As a company, we have invested quite heavily in part. And for me, that’s a perfect example on that we need to not only focus on ourselves, but also how can we affect the entire industry to bring things to another level, and that’s basically what our aim is.
A – Yeah, you’ve touched on a very significant challenge for airports… I think many of them have a vision or an ambition to be more sustainable or to innovate, but there are so many different parties involved at an airport. Like you mention there, right across the supply chain… to do what you wanted to do you had to look across a broad spectrum. So, do you think having all these stakeholders and third parties is a barrier to innovation for airports? How do you see that?
J – I think it depends on what kind of perspective you take on it, because if you see it as a barrier, yes it will be very difficult to do innovations… because let’s face it, we can’t do it alone. We as an airport operator cannot force anybody to do anything. But if you see it as a needed prerequisite for success then it becomes quite a different perspective. A lot of the way we do business at CPH is that we do not only focus on organising our own business and our own profit, but also the wellbeing and the profit-making for our direct partners, our partners at our shopping centre, our handlers, our airlines, if they are having a good business then we are too. So, we need to have our focus on the entire chain, instead of our own backyard, because that’s where we can do good things.
A – Yeah, very good. And let’s bring the discussion back to your main area of focus which is security. What’s your opinion on the kind of evolution of aviation security… you know, in recent years?
J – Yeah, I have some opinions on that. Actually, I think in recent years, but ever since security came into place, we’ve only seen requirements going up and up. More and more, it’s acknowledging making things more complex, and at the same time, making things more safe… that’s the basic idea. But, we can also see ourselves being in a situation where things are so complex and safe, that’s it’s actually unpleasant to fly or even impossible to go flying, because you need to go through so many different steps, and now with a pandemic on top of things, it becomes even more complex. I think it’s actually time to rethink and simplify the entire setup, without compromising security and safety, of course. But rethinking the entire thing. Not too many people are away, but the basic security checkpoint layout is exactly the same as it was in 1971, when the first checkpoints first saw the light of day. And that made us think, hmm, 50 years ago… how did your cell phone look like? How did computers look like? Cars, everything. Our basic mindset is still the same. You have a metal detector and you have an X-ray, and then you have some stuff around that. There are some pictures from the old days and it’s basically the same layout as we have today. We need to rethink that one. We need to make things smarter, more efficient, more simple. Enabling us to have the high level of safety we need, but also you want a different experience than the one we have today. It’s not a nice experience to go through most checkpoints… we want to change that.
A – Yeah, and I guess we’ll look at that in a few minutes with the checkpoint of the future… but it’s something similar to what you said earlier… you mentioned that it was an opportunity to rethink. So, I guess just in the meantime, in the past 12 months, how have you rethought the security lane and what have you introduced in terms of protection against COVID-19, what have you done in the last 12 months?
J – Yeah, of course, we’ve implemented all these distance requirements and putting up different kinds of sanitising equipment. We don’t have too many passengers right now, so we can… some of it on a very manual level and then we’re looking into what kinds of technology do we need to put it in in a seamless way. Putting in UVC cleaning example for our trays, stuff like that, that’s the things we’re looking into. Currently, we’re doing it manually, because we’re not quite there yet in what we want for the future, so we’re doing some intermediate stuff. But, as the rest of the industry, also see it’s here to stay, so we need to be smart about how we implement stuff instead of just going out and buying the latest and the greatest from a lot of different vendors who are really keen on selling us sanitation stuff. So, we’ve kind of working in a smart way and taking into consideration what’s the general idea on what we want for the future, and then make something that applies to that as well.
A – Yeah, yeah. And obviously that brings us very nicely to the main topic of conversation for today which is the security checkpoint of the future. Now, if you’re like me and you like a good sci-fi film, I guess there are all kinds of images running around your mind now when we think about the airport of the future, that we’ve often seen in movies. I guess it’s on a smaller scale than that, but Jonas please tell us about this project to create the security lane of the future.
J – Yeah, I think that one of the things that we’ve done together with Vanderlande is that we’ve basically said, OK we need to rethink everything. And look towards other industries as well… what are they doing that makes things a success, and as I said earlier, our main idea has been can we make it a pleasant (convenient) experience for both the passenger and staff. And what we’ve seen in our partnership with Vanderlande is that we’re not squeezed into a square hole. We can feed off each other to make the greatest checkpoint in the world, so one of the things we’re foreseeing is that airport security should actually start at the minute you buy your ticket. When you’re buying a ticket you should be able to pick and choose which kind of security service – note the word ‘service’ – I would like when I arrive at the airport. Am I a frequent flyer? Then perhaps I could use a self-service checkout, like we see in grocery stores. But a self-service security checkpoint. If I’m a family traveller, I could use a checkpoint where there might be one or two divestment officers there to help me get my stuff out but also entertaining my kids, making it a more pleasant experience as I go through the checkpoint. And at the same time, making sure that those operators are not only serviceable and hopefully make my day good, but also doing their job, which is – for lack of a better word – that I’m not one of the bad guys! When they intervene with me, when they are having a short conversation, making sure that they listen for, or see, the small notes that could indicate I’m one of the bad guys when I’m flying. Because of the way I’m acting or perhaps my checked in baggage was rejected, which could be an indication that we might want to take a closer look at me. So, it should be much more customisable and a much more pleasant experience. And our ambition in that case is not only to make the greatest checkpoint in the world at CPH – that’s of course our ambition – but it’s also to push the entire industry to actually do better.
A – Yeah, and this is very aligned to what we’ve come to expect in 2021, which is a lot of personalised individual services. I mean, we know for a fact that with security lanes you are treated en masse, and it doesn’t matter who you are or how frequently you travel… we all have to go through the same process. Do you think that those individual services might be done in different areas? So, for example, would frequent business travellers know to go to Zone A, and then family holidays would be Zone B… do you predict that it might be done in different zones, perhaps?
J – Both yes and no, because we’re for sure wanting them to be separate in some way… because it’s not nice for the frequent flyer to be bothered by the large family going for their yearly vacation. At the same time, we do expect going forward that the checkpoint needs to be very flexible and scalable, so what we want to do is basically having at the same checkpoint, but adjusting our ‘CONOPS’, adjusting our manning and operating of… if it’s a lane, we might see something else. And knowing, based on our data, which kind of passengers do we expect… OK, if we expect a cruise ship coming in, then we need to man up at the lanes for cruise ship passengers, if we see that there is a summer holiday then we adapt the CONOPS and way of working for these types of passenger. So, it should be a checkpoint that is very flexible and scalable, and able to adjust to what types of passenger we are going to see. So, it’s not just about zones across the checkpoint, but zones that can be adapted to a demographic… that’s what we’re going to see.
A – And as we know on Check-in, our listeners will be familiar with the term data… I think it’s come up more and more in recent years at airports, but as you say there data is so powerful, not only when you get to the security lane, but as you mentioned earlier, even from the moment you buy a ticket… then the airport knows that ‘xyz’ person/people are going to arrive at your airport so you know once the ticket’s been bought who’s going to show up, or who should show up at the airport. So, can you give me any other perspective on data, and how that’s going to be useful at the lanes.
J – Yeah, I think one of our ambitions is also – and based on a pandemic situation – ‘enforced need’ you might say… queueing is something everybody hates! And with the pandemic upon us queueing is a big no-no! So, how can we use our data in such a way that we can avoid any queues. We see an idea where I’m called to my security time slot, rather than just showing up – I think as you were almost saying… with all the other cattle and being herded through the checkpoint. How can we do that differently? And some of it will be through using data.
A – OK, so there’s the software angle and a digital angle there, but what about technologies and solutions… what’s your vision on those type of things? How will they be involved in that checkpoint of the future?
J – What we’ve also learned in the last 12 months and our rethinking of a checkpoint, is that some of the technologies we’ll be deploying are known technologies. We’re of course – like everybody else – looking into CT technology, automated tray return systems, UVC cleaning of trays and that kind of stuff. But, for us it’s not necessarily the choice of technology that’s important, it’s how we put it into operation, how we operate it, how we make it the best possible setup with our staff… that passengers get the most convenient experience going through the checkpoint. So, some will also be solutions that have not yet hit the market, but for us it’s really not as important as howwe operate and optimise their manner.
A – Yeah, there’s a lot to think about there, because obviously Copenhagen Airport is not in the business of R&D… you don’t develop solutions and technology, and obviously the lanes as we keep saying… well, you mentioned it terrifically earlier… they’ve been the same since 1971. So, suppliers are all going to keep making the same type of technologies. I suppose the challenge for you there is the fact that the solutions possibly don’t actually exist yet… so, that’s maybe another headache for you, I guess?
J – I guess it’s a headache, of course, but actually that’s one of the main reasons we chose Vanderlande as our strategic partner, because as I said earlier, they don’t force us into a square hole… where they say, well the setup is a lane, a CT machine, and then some return system… and it will be looking like 98-99% of the other airports across the globe. So, for us they (Vanderlande) are very keen on learning and listening to what we want as an airport. And for them it’s the way we feed off each other and bring things to another level. So, I’m sure that what we’re going to come up with is going to challenge the R&D department as well… hopefully, it will. Both on the hardware side but also on the software side, and we’re having great fun with it. Because, I think it’s very important, as I said in the beginning, if you have happy staff, you have happy passengers and you have a happy airport! And we’re basically doing the same… we’re having fun while doing these type of things, very serious, but great fun!
A – Ah, well that’s always important.
J – You might so, yeah.
A – It’s a… I don’t know… a value chain of happiness by the sounds of it I think… something like that. So, I don’t know if this is an ideal world kind of question I’m about to ask or if it’s something you might be able to comment on… you know, ‘yes this is going to exist in a few years’… so, as passengers and staff, what can they look forward to when going through the checkpoint or operating it? How is that going to look?
J – I think one of the key words we’ve been chasing down and we discussed things like ‘seamless’ or similar words, but we ended up with convenient. It has to be a convenient experience. I want, as a passenger, to feel special, I want to select the security service I want… and get that experience, where it’s very convenient for me and it’s on my terms, so that’s the passenger experience we’re looking for. And for staff, as I said happy staff equals happy passengers… for the staff it should be done in such a way that their focus is entirely on making the security level high but also making sure that the passengers get that convenient experience, not being focused on ‘are the conveyors working right’ and ‘is the X-ray doing what it’s supposed to be doing’… we need to build it in such a way that their jobs become so naturally comfortable doing them that they will have the right focus, it should be easier to do the right things at the checkpoint. So, I think that’s our ambition and that’s one of the main challenges actually, because how do you do that? We don’t have the answers but we bring a lot of our operators in developing, you know, what’s your most desired wish when going to work, doing this job. And then see if we can make it happen.
A – It would be interesting to have you on again in five years, Jonas, and it would be interesting to compare how much you’ve achieved in five years when you’ve made it more of a reality. I guess in the meantime you’ll be cooperating – you mentioned Vanderlande there – and there are other industry partners as well. How are you cooperating across the board to make this checkpoint a reality?
J – I think one of the things, and I touched upon it earlier, is actively choosing partnerships with some of the main players in the market… because we need to have, pardon the phrase, the ‘big boys’ in play for making this happen. So, partnership is very important to us, because that’s where we can codevelop and cocreate the stuff that will eventually set a new bar for the entire industry. So, we’ve done it with Vanderlande at our checkpoint, we recently went public with another partnership called ‘Smarter Airports’, where we take the entire software management system backbone of the airport, and making it that even smarter air hub, so it’s what we want to do both on the security side of things, but as an airport in its entirety. We need to make sure we’re in those partnerships that can do what we’re aiming for.
A – Well, that’s all we time for on this edition of Check-in, which just gives me the chance to say: Jonas Mark, thank you very much for being with us today.
J – Yeah, thank you very much for having me, and I’ll be happy to join you again at some point.
A – Well, thanks for listening to this edition of Check-in, and thanks once again to today’s guest – Jonas Mark from Copenhagen Airport.
I hope that you can join us for the next episode of Check-in, when we’ll be joined by another aviation industry insider.
Until next time, stay safe and goodbye for now.