Border control in British airports


What are the security measures put in place to keep British airports secure? 

Airports are vulnerable to various security threats like theft, terrorism, smuggling and much more- it is vital that they are kept as secure as possible. Over the years, airports have improved their approaches to ensuring security to keep their business, passengers and staff safe. After many incidents at airports, internationally and in the UK, airports have learnt from these and adapted their security solutions. Technology has drastically improved, allowing opportunity for new effective security methods to protect airports. Some of these methods include access control, video surveillance, biometrics and x-ray scanning. These are all important processes that can detect and prevent threats to border security. 

Today, we take a look at some of these security measures that key British airports, like Heathrow and Gatwick, use to maintain a secure environment. 


Biometrics in security solutions is increasing in popularity due to its accuracy and reliability. At airports it is used to scan fingerprints and map facial features to identify people. Heathrow Airport, one of the biggest airports in the UK, uses biometric technology to process passengers on flights to UK and Ireland destinations. It works by using a camera to capture an image of the passengers face when they present their identification or boarding card. A biometric template is then created which is unique to each person. Another image is then taken, which enables the biometric template to be compared to verify the passengers’ identity. This method was put in place to strengthen UK border security, those who decline the use of their data will not be allowed to board. 

Of course it is expected that many people will be concerned about the privacy of their data.  Heathrow confirmed that facial images and biometric templates are only kept for a necessary period of time and are then terminated in a secure way. Personal information will only be used for the purpose of border security and it will only be passed to law enforcement agencies if legally required. 

Gatwick Airport also uses biometric technology to increase their level of security. Gatwick uses this system to provide evidence that passengers boarding a domestic or CTA flight are the same individuals who entered the international departure lounge at the airport. Like Heathrow’s policy, this method of biometric technology is not optional for passengers-if passengers refuse to participate they will not be able to attend their flight. 


To prevent security breaches, airports will restrict what items passengers are allowed. This can include obvious items like firearms, narcotics and other harmful or illegal substances and objects. These items are commonly detected by the use of scanners, these can be used to scan luggage or a person to see if they are hiding any restricted items. This technology is key in ensuring airport security, it can specifically prevent terrorist attacks and smuggling. 

In regards to body scanners, they use the latest technology which means that they can scan passengers in a quick and unobtrusive way. Some airports occasionally search passengers by hand, which is an effective method- but the use of modern scanners is far more reliable and accurate. The officer will call the passenger into the machine and give them instructions. Scanners use millimetre wave technology to produce an outline image of the passenger’s body, revealing any concealed objects. Millimetre wave technology uses a low-power form of electromagnetic technology and poses no known health risks. 


To read more exclusive features and latest news please see our Q4 issue here.

Media contact

Rebecca Morpeth Spayne,
Editor, Security Portfolio
Tel: +44 (0) 1622 823 922

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