Airport security: An ethnographic study

Alan Avi Kirschenbaum, Michele Mariani, Coen Van Gulijk, Sharon Lubasz, Carmit Rapaport, Hinke Andriessen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper employs a behavioral science perspective of airport security to, examine security related decision behaviors using exploratory ethnographic observations. Sampling employees from a broad spectrum of departments and occupations in several major airports across Europe, over 700 descriptive items are transcribed into story scripts that are analyzed. The results demonstrate that both formal and informal behavioral factors are present when security decisions are made. The repetitive patterns of behavior allowed us to develop a generic model applicable to a wide range of security related situations. What the descriptions suggest is that even within the formal regulatory administrative framework of airports, actual real-time security behaviors may deviate from rules and regulations to adapt to local situations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-73
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Air Transport Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported with financial assistance from the European Union . The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of the BEMOSA Consortium, a project within the Seventh Programme and co-funded by Grant Agreement 234049 , and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.


  • Airport security
  • Security regulations
  • Terrorism threats

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Transportation
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Law


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