How to improve passport control

Vivian Bourguignon focused her MSc thesis on an ongoing problem at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. She graduated from the Transport & Planning department (Civil Engineering and Geosciences) on December 17, 2015.

In 2011, airport officials introduced self-service passport control gates (also known as SSPC gates) at four locations that are currently located within Schiphol. The innovative system was designed to help travellers reduce the amount of time that they spend waiting in line until their documents can be checked.

Unfortunately, many of them still opt to speak with customs agents at more traditional passport control desks (AKA TPC desks). Bourguignon’s research was devoted to finding out why this keeps happening and how officials can encourage travellers to use the self-service option instead.

After examining a case study with statistics acquired from the Schengen/non-Schengen border located between Lounge 1 and Lounge 2 in Schiphol, Bourguignon determined that an estimated 40% of travellers that could have used the SSPC gates went to the TPC desks instead. Her further research led her to conclude that one of the reasons why is because half of these individuals didn’t recognise the new system. A larger majority were also not aware of the requirements needed to use them.

Currently, the SSPC gates are available to travellers with newer passports that contain a biometric chip. They must also be over the age of 18, travelling without children and be EU citizens or citizens of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland.

These somewhat convoluted restrictions have not made promoting the SSPC gates an easy task for airport officials.

Bourguignon’s thesis contends that travellers might be more inclined to pass through the SSPC gates if they knew more about them and the requirements involved. She thinks that an informational video could serve as an important promotional tool but that it would need to be presented in the right context and at key moments during each traveller’s journey.

“It is best to show the movie when people are not in a hurry because then they pay most attention to the movie,” Bourguignon said. “Furthermore, the movie could also be spread via social media to make people aware of the self-service passport control possibility at Schiphol. Moreover, it would be a good idea to send travellers information by email (via airlines) beforehand.”

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