Security Culture in the Aviation Sector


For over 50 years, the aviation industry has countered and responded to multiple threats of terrorism. Aviation has always been and continues to be a highly-profiled industry when it comes to being targeted by terrorists. There were many acts of unlawful interference that mainly focused on the aircraft with attempts to hijack, attack, and sometimes destroy with explosives. For instance, the September 11, 2001 attacks targeted the aviation industries where nineteen militants linked with the Islamic extremist group al Qaeda hijacked and attacked four airplanes in their target of the United States (Oster et al., 2017). The focus has been on demands to ensure the safety and security of the passengers and other aviation users. Consequently, the U.S., European, and Canadian governments have implemented more aviation security measures that have now become a culture of the industry (Pikaar et al., 2016). The paper defines the security culture in aviation security, including IT, how effective security culture is in this sector and the potential benefits of ensuring that airports and passengers are protected.

Defining Security Culture

Security culture refers to the culture of an organization that encourages the optimal performance of the security operations through values, beliefs, norms, attitudes, and assumptions. The identified aspects determine how people view and think about the approach to security (Kosatka, 2018). In the aviation industry, security culture entails the protection of civil aviation from any acts of unlawful interference based on carrying out a security risk assessment by authorities. This is managed by combining the measures and resources, including material and human, to facilitate the passengers’ safety, the safety and security of crew, ground personnel, and the public in general.

The aviation security culture is advocated by the Airports Council International (ACI) and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). ACI represents the world’s airports in global trade, comprising the interests of the international organizations, including the ICAO and the governments (International Civil Aviation Organization, 2020). ACI ensures the security of aviation by developing policies and standards and recommends airports’ practices while providing information that would be significant in ensuring safety. Therefore, through the security culture, operators of aircraft ensure the optimal application of the measures to safeguard against interference based on unlawful acts.

There have been significant calls from various stakeholders to ensure there is strong security culture. Resolution 2309 (2016) of the United Nations Security Council requests countries and civil aviation organizations promote effective security culture (International Civil Aviation Organization, 2020). The resolution recognizes that establishing a comprehensive security culture facilitates effective and long-term aviation security and provides a principle for ICAO to develop a global aviation security plan. In 2020, during its general assembly, the ICAO was assigned to create ways to enhance aviation security in aviation (International Civil Aviation Organization, 2020). This led to the designation of the year of security culture to increase the safety of the air transport sector through the provision of opportunities to promote secure operations of aviation.

The effort was aimed to support the continuity of the business through the achievement of balanced security, and facilitate the experience of passengers and their safety. ICAO calls upon professionals in the aviation industry to identify and play the role to deter, detect and prevent unlawful interference acts that threaten the security of the airport and airlines. ICAO has also made efforts to support the security culture by conducting training, and workshops and providing guidance material and tools (International Civil Aviation Organization, 2020). An essential aspect ICAO informs about security culture is the change of behavior and attitudes towards achieving the overall security of the industry.

How Good Security Culture Can Be Obtained

Good security culture continues to take center stage in the air transport industry amidst the increasing aviation security tension. The adoption of the measures against unlawful actions that interfere with aviation started as earlier as 1963 with the development of the Tokyo Convention that established the global strategies (Oster et al., 2017). As new security threats emerge, further and additional security processes are introduced. These measures run from assessing risks to determining the most necessary aspects to address the threats. For example, recommendations are made towards strengthening the cockpit doors and conducting a 100 percent screening of checked baggage (Coole, 2017). There has also been a call to screen passengers and their carry-on luggage, pay greater attention to airport control perimeter and access, increased the use of security officers on-board, and pay more attention to the air cargo.

The presence of adequate security culture ensures that aviation safety is given the top priority within the airport’s operations. It involves providing member services where products and services are offered to enhance the security standards and processes (Kosatka, 2018). For instance, ACI Asia developed the peer review program APEX in security, security training, smart security program, and guidance documents. The ACI uses the guidance of the Regional Aviation Security Committee to keep the members abreast of the security developments, share the information when it is necessary, and assess the implications to the airports.

There are various ways an effective security culture can be obtained in the aviation and air transport industry. The development of this culture involves engaging all the stakeholders, including the staff at various company levels (Piwowarski, 2018). Engagement allows embracing common values and considering security as the priority for working within the facilities (Pikaar et al., 2016). The community in the aviation area emphasizes how essential a layered approach concerning the matters of security is. Thus, multiple measures are initiated, ranging from the advance information review for passengers to the processes of screening and securing the cockpit doors (Oster et al., 2017). One precious asset for ensuring airport security is the tight-knit community. Any successful security culture needs to be engendered with the ecosystem of a tight-knit community to facilitate the effective deliverance of hundreds of additional resources of security with a unique perspective on the operation.

Obtaining an excellent security culture in any airport or aviation facility is not complicated or theoretical but rather possible. Such involves following various steps to ensure that a new and powerful security approach is undertaken. ACI encourages authorities at all levels, especially in the airports, to uptake these steps. Many countries, including the U.S., Europe, and Canada, have already embraced these measures for secure air transport. The new approach entails implementing the checkpoint as the most emblematic security layer that emphasizes the passengers’ screening, including the staff, crew, and baggage (Poole, 2019). However, as new threats emerge from terrorists who want to attack targets considered softer and engage in radicalizing the individuals in the entire society, an advanced approach has been adopted. These measures involve heavy surveillance and patrols (Pikaar et al., 2016). The authorities have focused on continually keeping background checks to ensure that they are updated and develop a source of information that is considered reliable. Comprehensively, the security culture depends heavily on people to give vital information to address security threats.

Similarly, the successful implementation of an effective security culture involves raising genuine concerns about security as fundamental and with the desire to improve. The real security issue has to come from the top management level since it permeates the organization in its entirety (Coole, 2017). Thus, to move toward a good culture concerning the desire to improve, the aviation authority at the airport should provide a security awareness training course appropriate for the staff to see. It should be in the way of enhancing their security and safety even as they work in the facility amidst the many new and sophisticated threats. Since security culture demands the inclusion of all people, the role of everyone in security needs to be defined (Oster et al., 2017). This ranges from the staff at the lower level, the operational staff, the screeners, and the security managers. In any aviation facility that embraces good security culture, the security roles of everyone are contained in the job description, become part of the objectives of the industry, and contract with external stakeholders, including suppliers.

Developing a strong security culture in aviation requires re-focusing on the human security element. Security should be seen as the job of everyone and not only the people in the aviation environment and designated with the responsibilities of ensuring there is the security (Oster et al., 2017). This calls for the empowerment of all people to facilitate them in identifying the security threat. They should create a hostile environment to terrorism and make a culture where security is considered part of the work people do (Poole, 2019). This is critical in deterring and detecting potential planning of attacks to ensure that they are seen before occurring rather than preventing and noticing them when they have already happened.

Technology has been essential in developing an effective security culture. This can be achieved by introducing metal detectors to walk through and detect any guns and related items that would endanger the airport’s security (Pikaar et al., 2016). Lockerbie bombing was also introduced ahead of the X-ray baggage screening that has now been adopted globally. In 2006, a terror plot was foiled, leading to the invention of the scanners of liquid explosives and body scanners, later introduced in 2009 due to catalyst by the underpants bomber (Coole, 2017). The advancement in the aviation culture has been enhanced by information technology in ways of response and offering solutions to the security issues in airports and airlines. For a good security culture, the industry should cease looking at security only as the center cost and requirement for compliance but go beyond to make it better than other transport sectors. Safety is central in aviation, and a strong security culture, it helps reduce the risks caused by the constant and increasing threats.

Potential Advantages

Security culture has increased benefits to all the aviation stakeholders, including the passengers, pilots, and airport operators. Such culture is seen as essential in facilitating the national security of the country and contributes positively to the transport sector and economic development (Pikaar et al., 2016). A good aviation security culture helps strengthen the ability of the aviation authority to show their commitment to adopting better and smarter security. Such helps to achieve better security through the effective implementation of the measures of baseline security in various parts of the world and ensures that measures are defined on the basis of true risk assessments (Ormerod & Dando, 2015). The culture that promotes better aviation security ensures that the system is efficient in addressing the evolution of the constant threats. With the smarter security envisaged in the security culture, the air transport sector can continue growing sustainably. Additionally, it enhances the passengers’ experience as they use the infrastructures within the airport and airlines.

ACI has been an advocate for a positive security culture in the aviation industry as a way of enhancing its security. Through this promotion, ACI helps to define aviation security in the future that is established in the operations of the airports. With the industry and its operators assured of future security through their current operations, steps are taken to make developments that allow the companies in the aviation industry to offer better services to the passengers (Pikaar et al., 2016). Good security culture influences the making of decisions and works in partnerships with other stakeholders that add to its betterment. It is because vulnerable areas of security threat targets are identified, and measures are taken to protect instead of waiting until the security threats happen (Oster et al., 2017). Through a security culture in aviation, ACI ensures that vital information that assures the security stability of the airports and airlines is available among all the parties to the operation. It includes the Department of Homeland Security for quicker response; in any case, there is a security breach that would endanger the lives of the passengers and other airport operators.

Therefore, in advocating for a security culture in aviation, ACI and ICAO provide guidance and capacity building to define the future of security in the sector. It allows the strengthening of the security in sensitive areas, ensures that the passenger journey is seamless, increases operations efficiency with limited fear, and reduces operations costs (Coole, 2017). For the industry and air transport sector to achieve these improvements, there has been increased use of information technology through the smart security program (Ormerod & Dando, 2015). With smart security in place, the authorities of aviation can envision the future through the seamless screening of passengers and strengthening the security with the use of optimized airport facilities.

Despite the challenge of transforming security culture behavior and awareness, effective security culture is equally important. It allows the employees to get engaged and take responsibility for the issues of security. Such calls for the need to promote positive security culture to assist in mitigation against threats that come from within the industry and from outside (Oster et al., 2017). Different personnel possess varied ways of thinking and acting while being more security conscious and identifying and reporting the activities and behaviors that raise concern. Ultimately, all people will acknowledge their critical role in the security regime and towards its improvement in the aviation industry and beyond.

Similarly, when the security regime and culture for aviation are effective and efficient, it becomes proactive and competent. It is because it is supported by all people who are competent, accountable, and motivated to utilize the established procedures while complying with the regulations as prescribed (Pikaar et al., 2016). In any unforeseeable situation, these people arise and take up the initiative to handle any security issue. A good culture encompasses an effective security management system that offers a systematic and organized approach to manage the security situation to protect the organization and the people (Enerstvedt, 2017). Additionally, when the security culture of the organization is good, it allows states, industry, and the organization to work together as partners as they embrace unity and more effective defense against terrorism (Coole, 2017). Such allows the building of capacity and capability in the entire system to invest in enough human capital to have a competent and motivated workforce in place.


The security culture is an essential aspect of aviation security that embraces information technology to facilitate the security and safety of the passengers and operators in the industry. As any industry that has designed measures of success, the passengers, the crew, and the staff in the airport and within the airlines must be protected from hijacking, attacks, and other security threats. Prior studies have established that the aviation industry has been faced with multiple threats of terrorism, with examples of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the four airplanes and the 2016 terrorist attacks in the landslide areas of Ataturk Airport and Brussels Airport in Istanbul. This has led to the demands for the safety and security of passengers and other aviation users. Airports Council International (ACI) and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) have advocated for effective security cultures by developing policies and standards and recommending airports’ practices while providing information that would be significant in ensuring safety. Therefore, through the security culture, operators of aircraft ensure the optimal application of the measures to safeguard against interference based on unlawful acts. The efforts support the business’s continuity through the achievement of balanced security and facilitate the experience of passengers and their safety. Fundamentally, the optimum security of the airports and airlines is the responsibility of all persons and the government to remain high on alert to abort any planned aviation security threat.


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