Preparing for take-off: how we ensure security teams are ready for the post-Covid era

17th November 2021

Mark Hicks
Business Development Director for Transport and Aviation at Wilson James


It’s no understatement to say that the aviation industry has been significantly disrupted by Covid-19. However, although many flights were halted and planes grounded, training has continued – as a way to keep skills updated as well as meeting ongoing mandatory compliance training requirements. Indeed, the pandemic caused something of a level-up for the Wilson James team, calling on us to work hand-in-glove with our aviation partners to ensure skills were not lost and staff felt reassured to return to work.

Indeed, once the pandemic passes it’s highly likely that passengers will regain their love of air travel. Airports (and their people) need to be prepared for this, particularly if pent-up demand causes a quick resurgence in air travel.

Continuing to train

Throughout the pandemic, Wilson James has been continuing to provide its tailored training packages including its CAA approved courses such as the aviation ground security operative (GSO), aviation ground security supervisor (GSS), and aviation security manager (ASM) training. This has kept security personnel completely abreast of the latest international security standards and risks. Where relevant, we have expanded our training resources to include Covid-specific factors such as ensuring social distancing and safely dealing with red list arrivals.

Adapting courses

There have been notable differences in demand during the pandemic. The summer period, which is usually a quiet period for aviation security training, was noticeably busier in 2020. With most travel limited over the summer, airports took the opportunity to upskill their staff. Now, in anticipation of international travel re-commencing in the near future, recruitment in the sector is once again bouncing back. This has a knock-on impact on training requirements with the team, in particular, noticing an uptick in manager training. Where some organisations have restructured or changed their services, training has been needed again in the new systems and processes.

Navigating uncertainty

That said, the ongoing uncertainty around travel and the red, amber, and green system, means many aviation leaders face a tricky balance in ensuring their people are ready to resume work, but that they are not trained too early and forget their training. This is where the Wilson James approach has been invaluable with the team able to flex their resources and courses to what each client needs, and when. For instance, the team discovered that foundational training is essential for staff returning from long periods of furlough. Both to ensure their skills and knowledge meet a certain expected level, as well as each staff member’s peace-of-mind. This foundational training has to be in place first, before staff can be upskilled in new approaches or value-added skills.

Value-added skills

Some organizations have also invested further in their people’s skills to provide a better long-term passenger experience.

Passengers Requiring Support (PRS) training has proved popular, as more airports and airlines realise the unique needs of passengers with physical and hidden disabilities. Pre-Covid, approximately 3.2 million disabled passengers travelled through UK airports. Post-pandemic, the sector expects 2 in 3 of these passengers to continue flying. However, in order to attract these passengers back, extra reassurance is needed around health and social distancing procedures. If these concerns aren’t addressed, an estimated 75% of disabled passengers will not return to air travel.

Wilson James’ PRS training enables staff to identify all types of PRS, then liaise with relevant parties (such as ground handling staff) to assist passengers.

Ensuring staff wellbeing

Understandably, for aviation personnel themselves, there are concerns around the safety of returning to work. To address this, current training is also focusing on the overall wellbeing on staff with discussions around what they feel nervous about, training to return them to the right ‘safe’ level, and also support in dealing with the extra pressures of social distancing and ensuring mask adherence. Coaching and mentoring provides a personalised way of alleviating worries and a weekly online Q&A gives the opportunity to discuss areas of concern. Furthermore, Wilson James has implemented the Keeping Well initiative to support good mental and physical health through online video and print resources. Some of the topics covered include keeping active, eating well, tackling fake news and conspiracy theories, and managing stress and anxiety.

Moving forward

As the sector moves on from the pandemic, excellent standards of passenger security and care will be needed to reassure and attract them back. These skills can only be gained by working with a high-quality aviation security provider like Wilson James, who can adapt quickly to changing industry needs and external factors.

For more information about any of Wilson James’ security training, please contact