Op-Ed: When #PaxEx and #TravSec converge

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OK. Let me state the obvious. In any aspect of our personal and professional lives security is quite simply an annoyance that we usually give scant attention…and only when we have to. Security, when we are on the go, is a downright hassle and a hindrance, interrupting our personal flow, progress, and contribution to our own purposes whether it be for work, entertainment, or something else.

Like it or not, it isn’t going anywhere, and just like the airline’s inflight entertainment system, selection of wines in first class, or the online reservation systems, it is a part of the passenger experience (#PaxEx).  But there is a critical distinction about security, or more precisely, “travel security” (#TravSec) that I believe needs highlighting. #TravSec comes in two primary forms: the kind done in airports to us and the kind done by us for ourselves and loved ones. Both are each a part of the overall #PaxEx.

The kind done to us is the one we all know and not-love…that of the airport screeners. This is the obligatory lock-step march, shuffle, sigh, shuffle-some-more while checking the latest tweets experience before we take off our belts and shoes so a government hourly worker can deem us not a threat to civilization.

The other kind of #TravSec – the kind done by us for us – is an essential component of your own personal #PaxEx. It is where #PaxEx converges with #TravSec because it answers the question: “So who is responsible for my security experience?” The answer is very simple and obvious: you are.

You are the sole provider of the #TravSec for you and your valued possessions, whether they are things or humans. You are the single best security agency to look out for your best interest, and you are the person best positioned to know your essential requirements and situation. Yes, there will always be times during your air travel experience when you must engage and comply with established laws and transportation security policies and I am not suggesting we ignore the local laws and take matters into to our own hands. But most of the time you are on your own, especially when not in one of transportation segments of your trip.

Taking off your belt, shoes, and coat and then holding your arms over your head during a technological pat-down at an airport screening checkpoint as a very personal experience. Yet when you go through such a security measure on the departure end of every airline trip, are you the intended recipient and beneficiary of these all-too-familiar security steps? Is this very personal experience really about you and me?

The Transportation Security Administration, created a month after the 9/11 attacks and realigned under the brand new U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2003, has the mandate to secure several modes of the U.S. transportation system including air, rail, sea, and transit.  Needless to say, most of us only experience the aviation aspect of the TSA mission. But keep in mind there a very important facet of the TSA mission that they don’t want us – the traveling air passenger – to realize: TSA, and by extension DHS-at-large, is not primarily in the business to protect you and me. Their mandate is to protect the “critical infrastructure” and by extension an efficient flow of commerce and our national economic vitality that depends upon it. No small task and certainly a noble mission, but it is again not about the protection of us. It is about assessment of us and granting us permission to participate in that infrastructure. Do I really mean to say TSA does not care about the well-being of the travelling public?  Of course not. But it is never a good day for TSA when bad things happen to passengers and employees while enjoying the marvels of the modern commercial aviation system. Without passengers and cargo, the transportation system would cease to have a purpose.

In my opinion the #PaxEx experience of air travel begins at the very moment you determine you need the transportation services of a scheduled commercial airline. From that point forward you are a potential customer and will begin your transportation selection and purchase. That relationship continues uninhibited until long after you have returned to your point of origin. You will remember your #PaxEx right up to the time of needing to choose an airline for you next trip.

#TravSec runs parallel to and is interwoven with #PaxEx the whole way; however the level of experience is primarily dependent upon you and how important you wish to make it. Like #PaxEx it begins when you realize there is travel soon in your future. Travel security is simply preparing for and managing those unanticipated events and occurrences during travel that could threaten your desired state of well-being whether it be your physical, emotional, and even digital state.

#TravSec is all about being informed and, when necessary, knowing what, how, and when prudent action is to be taken. Effective travel security starts before you leave your home and also continues uninhibited for days after you return. Your level of #TravSec preparedness is driven by both the nature and destination of your trip, and by the level of effort you wish to put forth. Simple, domestic U.S. overnight trips are generally low-risk and do not require too much preparation. Long, international trips to some foreign hot spot location rife with internal concerns may represent a very significant #TravSec concern (Sochi, anyone?) and require a significant effort on the traveler’s part.

Always remember, airport security is what our government does to you to make the system secure. #PaxEx is what the airlines do for you to make your journey tolerable and your business repeatable. #TravSec is what you do for you for your own well-being. It is about what you can do yourself to ensure your journey is as safe as can be reasonably managed. I will dive deeper on this concept in future posts. #PaxEx #TravSec

RCPIC JAN232014About the Author, Rick Charles (@TravelSecurely)

Travel security writer Rick Charles is a lifelong airplane geek.  He is an international travel risk manager for a global aviation organization based in Washington, DC. He has served in various national security, aviation, and risk management roles for close to 25 years.

Rick is a Stanford University/IATA Certified Aviation Management Professional, and an aviation subject matter expert on the Supply Chain and Transportation Security Council of ASIS International, the world’s foremost association for security professionals.

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