ustice Minister Ionas Nicolaou visited Paphos airport on Tuesday to inaugurate six new interactive passport control booths, which are aimed at speeding up and simplifying the security check process.
Similar border express booths, which can only be used by European nationals with biometric passports, will be introduced at Larnaca airport at both arrivals and departures in the future, he said.
Accompanied by Chief of Police Zacharias Chrysostomou and Chief Executive Officer of Hermes airports Eleni Kaloyirou, the minister said the introduction of the new booths will increase current passport control capabilities and that an increase in passenger numbers is expected at both airports this year.
The interactive booths can handle 600 passengers per hour, he said, and would now be trialled for a six-month period.
In the meantime, numbers of security staff at Paphos airport have been increased in the last couple of months as Hermes hands parts of this department over to a private company.
Senior Manager of Operations at Paphos airport Yiannis Harpas told the Cyprus Mail that ICTS was awarded the contract after a tender process and that already staff in some areas, including the area where passengers remove belts and shoes and place hand luggage through scanners, have nearly doubled in last couple of months.
This has meant that necessary and diligent safety checks are being carried out in a timely as well as safe manner, he said.
The new company will take over security relating to access in controlled areas, passenger and luggage checks, personnel checks, cargo, post, supplies, vehicles and patrols in restricted areas.
Police will continue to be responsible for guarding aircraft and airport areas.
The final processes and procedures are being carried out by the Department of Civil Aviation to grant the necessary licences and then ICTS will be “fully in control” by the end of next month, Harpas said.
In October last year the transport ministry signed an agreement with Hermes authorising it to outsource part of the security services of the island’s two international airports to private contractors.
At the time Hermes said the agreement aims to improve the quality and operating times of the services rendered and better serve the traveling public.
This move came in the wake of a raft of complaints by passengers about chaos at Paphos airport and huge queues caused by much needed software upgrades and a lack of staff.
Tender winners were aviation and maritime security experts ICTS, who are responsible for the security at a number of other European airports including Athens. ICTS Cyprus has been operating on the island since 2009, providing security services to airlines, airports, seaports and marinas, mega-yachts, and both public and private organisations.
“They will be constantly at the airport to monitor everything and with the addition of new staff, passengers are moving through the security checks more quickly and there are more staff available to assist and guide them,” he said.
Harpas said that customer care and satisfaction is a priority for Hermes and that during peak hours it is taking passengers only around ten minutes to clear the central search area.
He added that around 2.3 million travellers are expected to pass through Paphos airport this year and the total for Larnaca and Paphos is expected to be around 9 million.
“Last year was record breaking for us and this year we are expecting to break last year’s record,” he said.