Security contractors hired to run screening operations at Canadian airports

The Canadian Air Transportation Security Authority announced this week that it has selected four private security contractors to provide screening of passengers and baggage in specific geographic regions.

Among the companies chosen include; G4S Secure Solutions (Canada), Pacific Region; Aeroguard Company, Prairies Region; Garda Security Screening, Central Region; and Securitas Transport Aviation Security; East Region.

CATSA said that consolidating its number of contracts from 17 to four will help it streamline its operations and expenditures. The new contracts begin on Nov. 1, 2011 and end on March 31, 2017, with an option to extend them for up to five additional years.

According to Jean Pierre Taillon, president of G4S Secure Solutions, Canada, providing security screening at airports is unique from other markets that the company serves with regards to the philosophy that is used and the level of customer service provided.

"One of the fundamental differences in screening an airport is how do you manage the queue times, the courtesy, how you are treating individuals as you have to pat them down, and run them through the X-ray machines and metal detectors," he explained. "So, it's an entirely different process than if you're doing a commercial property or if you're doing healthcare."

Taillon said that the new contract, which will cover 22 airports in the region including Vancouver International, will be the company's first in the Canadian airport screening services market since 2003. G4S already provides screening services at more than 60 other airports around the world including the Netherlands, Belgium and Iraq.

Taillon said one of the biggest challenges of handling security at these airports will be managing flight schedules and the weather.

"This is just like anywhere else in the world. Typically, your peak hours are between 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and then from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.," he said. "So, how do you schedule and book your security officers in order to have the right number of officers working on the workload? It's all capacity management. The other aspect is inclimate weather and late planes. How do you minimize the impact to customers going through screening and make sure you have enough people to do that work? That's the secret sauce."

Taillon said that G4S will take over an existing workforce of 1,800 employees in the region and train them to the company's standards. He said that the utilization of private screening companies will introduce best practices into the market.

"G4S is a global security company. We do screening around the world. In fact, the chief operating officer we have running this project is from Amsterdam, so he's bringing best practices from Europe, especially in queuing theory and customer service efficiencies," Taillon said. "By contracting it out and having four different suppliers across the country, it is providing CATSA with an opportunity to really push the envelope on customer service, queuing and security."