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UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 12 | Oct. 10, 2002

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 UBC’s 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 don’t know of too many classmates who have had the same experience.” Kluczny - who served as the team’s 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 Kluczny.

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 airport’s 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 UBC’s recent Undergraduate Multidisciplinary Research Conference.

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Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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