UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 12 | Oct.
UBC Researchers Find a Way to Shorten Waits at Airport Security
Study suggests a better method
By Hilary Thomson
Frustrated with slow-moving airport security lineups?
A team of UBC student researchers has a plan to make those
lines shorter and faster.
Consulting to the Vancouver International Airport Authority
since January, the team designed a system that could complete
the pre-board security screening for 90 per cent of passengers
in less than 10 minutes.
A group of five undergraduates, grad students, a faculty
member and recent alumni from a variety of disciplines conducted
the project at UBCs Centre for Operations Excellence
(COE) in the Faculty of Commerce.
It was a big step from class projects to professional
consultation, says Bailey Kluczny, who graduated this
spring with a BComm and has been involved in the project as
a work-study assignment. I dont know of too many
classmates who have had the same experience. Kluczny
- who served as the teams technical analyst - and other
team members spent a lot of time at the airport, observing
the screening process and collecting data.
They created process maps and built an animated computer
simulation of the process. It generates animated passengers
that move through the simulated pre-board screening. The tiny
figures replicate the number and timing of passengers arriving
for a flight, covering everything from the passenger who arrives
an hour early to the person racing to board with only five
minutes to spare.
It has been so satisfying to be able to work on a
project that looks at a real and current problem, says
Work on applied projects like this encourages students to
go on to graduate studies in operations research, adds Prof.
Martin Puterman, COE director. After adding a floor plan and
animation, the team can see exactly what is needed to keep
the screening process moving smoothly. The simulation has
allowed them to experiment with various staffing and demand
levels to find the optimal number of people required to do
the job quickly and efficiently. In addition, they looked
at the best way to configure the staff working at the X-ray,
luggage inspection and metal detector stations.
Results from the simulation were used to develop a staff
scheduling system for the pre-board screening process. For
a given flight schedule, the team can determine staff requirements
at each of the airports screening points and what combination
of work schedules are effective at minimum cost. This
model is proving to be a very powerful tool for improving
the overall process - it will definitely be used in future
planning, says Paul Levy, director, Security and Emergency
Planning at Vancouver International Airport Authority.
The project has been presented to the authority and may
be presented to the Canadian Air Travel Security Agency that
was formed after 9/11 to improve airport security.
The project was presented at UBCs recent Undergraduate
Multidisciplinary Research Conference.