Monthly Archives: September 2010

A look at TSA’s new screening devices

By Matt Griffin

TSA's Robin Kane

This morning on the show floor, Robin Kane, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Security Technology, provided an update on the status of new screening technologies, and in particular, Advanced Imaging Technology or AIT. In compressing the timeline of the nationwide rollout of this technology, TSA is committed to coordinating with airports earlier in the design phase. Kane encouraged airports to remain responsive and committed to keep the lines of communication open.

Another tool that many airports should expect to see in the near future is the second edition of the Advanced Technology or AT-2 X-ray machines. TSA recently made a major procurement of these systems and expects to begin to take delivery by year-end, which will be followed by a quick deployment. This technology will provide an enhanced platform that can be further augmented as the software is updated and improved throughout the lifecycle of the technology. Central to this technology is an auto-detect capability, which will target items of concern for Transportation Security Officers.

The TSA Explosive Baggage Screening Program has roughly 90 in-line Explosive Detection Systems projects in various phases of completion at airports across the country, including 168 reduced size EDS units. Money for these and other checkpoint projects, made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has been spent, has been fully allocated.

Kane discussed other technologies such as the credential identification systems, which – when procured – will be deployed to Travel Document Checker stations. TSA has issued a broad agency announcement seeking shoe screening technology that will be tested. Provided the units can detect explosives and other prohibited items, they will be deployed in such a manner so as not to increase the existing footprint of security checkpoints.

TSA is focused on integration of existing checkpoint technologies in an attempt to decrease the size of the checkpoint footprint and increase the effectiveness of the systems. Airports will see new technologies pilot tested at checkpoints in the near future.

Contact ACI-NA’s Christopher Bidwell for more information.

HR Aviation Industry Trends

By Nancy Zimini

The Human Resources Committee invited speakers, Thella Bowes, CEO, San Diego Airport Authority and her HR Director, Jeff Lindeman to address the current state of the aviation industry and future challenges, e.g., the impact on airports and the role that the HR function can play in building and retaining future human capital capacity.

The overall HR objective is to build a workforce plan that aligns with, and supports, the strategic plan of the airport or authority.

How do we achieve this? By developing an infrastructure to ensure effective knowledge transfer, thus a need to evolve a culture based on technical competence to one of a culture of learning by being agile, flexible and adaptable to changes.  To make this happen, the HR component needs to be engaged with executive leadership to aid in developing business acumen by influence and engagement.

Employee Retention: One key to employee retention is to understand human motivation, e.g., focus on building competence in managing generational differences.  Thus, succession planning that goes beyond simple replacement planning.  Competent succession planning reduces overall costs while adding value to the overall organization.

A look at the role of an Airport HR executive

By Nancy Zimini
As the Human Resources Committee conference raps up its meeting in Pittsburgh it is clear that we had another exceptional industry specific meeting! Highlights of a few sessions are described below. Full conference presentations were made on the topics of  Strategic Workforce Planning, Wellness Program, Labor Relations – Interest vs. Position Based Negotiations, Performance Management, Creating and Maintaining a Culture of Excellence.  Updates and interesting stats on the latest Airport Compensation and Benefits Survey and ACI World’s Global Training in North America were also presented.

Saturday’s session on HR’s Strategic Role as a Collaborator with Airport Executives; How the HR Function supports the overall business strategy? was quite an exciting panel discussion.  The invited speakers, Genelle Allen (Detroit), Larry Cox (Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority), and Marily Mora (Reno-Tahoe), discussed and shared their view points regarding this question.

How important is HR’s role in the overall business strategy and reporting structure?

According to Memphis-Shelby’s Cox, “To be a great leader/manager you really need to be in touch with the human side of the business, and is why the HR role is so important to the strategic plan of an organization”.  In the case of Memphis-Shelby, the HR staff reports directly to him. Senior staff, including the VP of HR, meet weekly in order to ensure that they are all updated on essential events and potential issues and/or concerns in order to effectively run the organization.

According to Detroit’s Allen, she commented that; “The CEO/HR Relationship is extremely important; CEOs’ need to know what’s happening with their staff.  This gives us the ability to make decisions at all staff levels.  Culture is #1 and HR is the champion of making that happen; HR represents the employees’ perspective; they are the voice at the table to discuss how decisions that may be made may impact employees, and those HR professionals need to also have the values to be good role models, not only in representing the employees directly to management but also directly to the employees themselves.”  Allen also stated that “It is critical that the CEO be philosophically aligned with their HR executive.” The bottom line is that is essential that CEO’s be directly in sync and linked with their HR executive.

Reno-Tahoe’s Mora stated; “There has been a shift towards including HR in the strategic planning process”.  In her case the HR staff member organizationally reports directly to the COO with a dotted line to the CEO.  HR needs a standing relationship with the CEO because they are “the voice of the employees,” updating the CEO so that they know what’s going on within the organization.  In the strategic business plan, HR’s role and involvement is key.

How have they dealt with Economy?

According to Cox, communication with the entire workface is key because “People are our most important asset to the success of our business.”  In his message he stated that keeping staff updated with changes and why changes may be needed is how you retain loyal employees.  He mentioned that this had a direct impact of why they we able to be sustainable during this economic downturn without having to initiate any employee layoffs.  He gave the example where he communicated with all employees that if they didn’t need to spend, then they shouldn’t, and they listened.

Gerri Allen stated, “Communication, Communication, Communication”, echoing Cox’s remarks. “Keeping your employees aware, informed, and making them understand why decisions are being made as Larry stated is essential, in addition to getting employee feedback as well.”

Marily Mora also agreed that communication is key, not only to the governing bodies but within the community and that it was the number one priority for Reno-Tahoe is with their employees. “Unleash the talent,” she stated, “Determine where opportunities are in order to cross train. This creates opportunities where employees can shift within the organization.”

What attributes should an HR executive possess?

Memphis’ Cox commented that the HR executive needs to have the respect and trust of everyone throughout the organization, i.e., management as well as the employees.  CEOs’ are paying more and more attention to the HR role within organizations. We know that we need to take care of our people in this environment to succeed; providing programs that will take care of them regardless at work or at home.  This will allow the airports to meet their goals in this economic climate.

Detroit’s Allen opined by saying that the HR role needs to have a standard of excellent, have flexibility in their role, and adjust to change.  They must always have an open mind and look for new challenges for the organization, as well as its employees because that is essential to making it in this economic environment.  Part of being an HR exec is to live those values, and believing in them.  She continued by saying that being the #1 in customer satisfaction is always an honor to receive; however, being #1 with our employees is not as good, thus it has become one of Detroit’s core values to achieve.

Diversity is one of our airport’s core values.  We need to embrace it, value differences, value others’ opinions, and each one of us should feel that we are equally valued – though you may have different responsibilities, all should still be valued the same.

Marily Mora said that HR needs to be organized and plan meetings with their CEO; need to know what’s happening with their employees and the organization; the goal is to create an effective and talented management team. Front line managers create a great company of employees.

On one Reno-Tahoe’s core values is diversification: bringing the difference of opinions will attract employees that represent a cross section.  Explain why positions are not being filled and why staff may have to take on additional roles.  Reno created a “mentor/mentee” program to create these opportunities within their airport.

In conclusion, all agreed that there would be no value with out looking at all facets of HR.

  • Future skills needed for HR executives:
  • learn the business side of the organization
  • analytical skill
  • more numbers oriented
  • knowledge and experience
  • creativity
  • excellent communications skills
  • If this does not exist, creating a role where it does. CEO’s need to be challenged.
  • Trust of the Board, CEO, and staff; self confidence, serves as the coach to the CEO and to staff.

Another round of Airlines vs. Passengers

The "Who's Protecting the Passengers' Panel

By Jane Calderwood
Who’s Protecting the Passenger proved to present a very balanced view with Southwest and IATA representatives squaring off against DOT and the Consumer Travel Alliance.

Denver’s Ken Greene did a nice job of laying out the issue before turning thing over to Charlie Leocha of the Consumer Travel Alliance.  Leocha noted that his experience with Washington since starting the Alliance has been “a learning experience.”  He said that prior to the Passenger Bill of Rights regulations travelers had all the rights of a medieval serf.

DOT’s Sam Podberesky gave a review of regulations already in place before he discussed the recently closed NPRM which elicited 2,000 comments on a myriad of passenger rights issues.  He also gave kudos to his staff – increased from 29 to 45 in the past year – who are responsible for the rights of the 7 to 8 million passengers who fly each year.

Lisa Anderson of Southwest who proudly noted that the airline for 17 of the last 19 years, has had the fewest customer complaints.  She laid out the steps Southwest has long had in place to take care of their customers and lamented the need for federal regulations as they take away the flexibility the airlines have to deal with problems as they arise.

Steve Lott of IATA lamented that the only one who profits from regulations are the lawyers.  He used examples from Europe’s efforts to make the case that regulations cost passengers money.

A number of thoughtful questions were asked and Ben DeCosta closed the questions by making the observation that while IATA expressed its concern with regulations, they never outlined  the airlines’ commitment to the passengers.

Creative Revenue Generation While the Economy is on “Pause”

By Liying Gu
As passenger demand drops and airlines continue to put pressure on aeronautical rates and charges, airports must continue to look for new and diverse sources of revenue.

Bill Restall, of the Saskatoon Airport Authority, kicked off the session highlighting the shift in reliance from aviation fees to non-aviation fees to allow the airport authority to become a low-cost airport for their airline partners.

First speaker Lois Kramer set the context for the need for revenue development from a big picture perspective. She laid out market factors that impacted airports in the past and those factors that will continue to challenge airports such as airline bankruptcies and mergers, technology, and the shortening of airline use and lease agreements. As many of the airport revenue sources are passenger dependent and there is future risk of insufficient trust funds, she believes future revenue opportunities exist at the boundaries of shared responsibility.

Lysa Scully of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey presented their revenue strategy from non-traditional aviation operations: new concession programs that allow passengers the ease of ordering food right from the gate area, premium reserved parking, digital signage advertising, and new customer services that have a revenue component.

Hans Miller then presented mobile opportunities designed to interact with airport revenue generation such as pre-order dining, car service, express security, premium parking and last-minute hotel.