The below guidelines are based on the current procedures for UK airports.
UK airports primarily have two areas for employees to work. Firstly, 'landside', where typically all airport staff undergo minor checks (if any) and are free to work anywhere inside the terminals (before check-in) and surrounding airport properties. Whilst the security checks are minimal, any airport applicant should undergo a basic induction to become aware of the health & safety aspects of the airport, which is a general induction usually decided by the airport authorities. Some airports/terminals will require landside employees to have a landside pass.
The second area for airport employees is the Restricted Zones (RZ), or referred to as '
airside'. For any airport employee to work airside, they will without exception only be allowed to access the areas with an official airside pass allocated by the airport authorities. There are a number of different airside passes, including temporary passes and full passes - see below.
It is difficult, if not impossible for an individual to apply for an airside pass, as the airport authorities will only allow employers to submit applications. This could be their own personnel department for their own employees, or authorised sub-contractors supplying the airport who have been approved by the airport to submit airside pass applications.
Temporary Airside Pass
Most airports have the option to provide temporary airside passes to individuals, to help with any unexpected staff requirements on airside. There are a number of different temporary passes, such as a 5-day pass, 30-day pass and visitors pass.
There is a limit on how many consecutive 5-day temporary passes the same person applies for, and there is sometimes a statutory break required between each pass that is issued - i.e. a person cannot work for 20 days non-stop by applying for four 5-day temporary passes, as the ID Centre will not issue another pass unless the expiry date of the last pass was over seven days old.
To apply for a temporary pass, the employer must complete the required temporary pass application form. The employee then has to go to the airport ID Centre with the paperwork and their identification such as their passport. No appointments are usually necessary. For a 5-day temporary airside pass, no referencing details (or GSAT/DBS - see below) are required. Once a person has received their temporary airside pass, they will go onto the airport's database.
If a person is working airside with a temporary airside pass, they can only work if they are accompanied by a full airside pass holder at all times. The temporary pass will display 'Escorted'. If an employee is found anywhere in an airside position working alone with a temporary airside pass they will be removed immediately by security, and the employer will face harsh questioning by the airport authorities. In such cases it has been known for the escorting member of staff who should have accompanied the temporary pass worker to have their full pass taken away also, or in extreme cases the employer will lose their rights with the airport ID Centre.
Full Airside Pass
For a member of staff to acquire a full airside pass, where they can access certain airside areas continuously and alone, they must provide referencing details for the last five years.
References must be day specific - 'Jan 2010' will not be accepted. An employee should provide a comprehensive list of exact dates, names, contact numbers etc. along with type of reference (see below). It does not matter which country the references are from, they have to be provided.
There must not be any unaccounted periods between each of the reference dates of more than 28 days. If an unaccounted period is longer than 28 days, an additional reference should be provided to cover this short period.
The five year period must cover the exact last 5 years, from today's date.
Once all the information has been received by the employer, they will write to each referee using their paperwork asking for confirmation of the person and the relevant dates. The referee will have to verify the information by replying on the official form sent by the employer. If the reference is for any type of employment, the company should also verify themselves as a genuine employer by providing a letterhead or official company stamp. The referee must then return the completed form back to the employer direct - any other method such as the employee collecting the reference in person will void the reference. It is then the employer's responsibility to consider the reference as acceptable.
A full airside pass is valid for five years, but if it is not used in any continuous period of 60 days or more it will be de-activated.
Airside Pass Reference Types
Listed below are the types of referencing used in airports.
Where a person has worked, either paid or unpaid. The reference must be completed by an authorised person of the company. If the company is no longer trading, then the individual should seek alternative referees to clarify their employment with this entity, such as the accountant which was used, or official receiver etc.
If a person was unemployed during a period, registered with an unemployment agency (Job Centre etc.), this agency should provide the reference. Job Centres and benefits offices do provide references on a regular basis to clarify individual dates.
Where a person has been in full-time education as a student - school, college or university.
An agency reference should be completed whenever a person has worked for an employment agency. Whilst an individual is usually employed by the employment agency, they will have been assigned to work for different companies. The employment agency should complete the names, dates and contact numbers of all assignments. The airport ID centre will then confirm the employment with the agency, and will undertake random checks on the companies to which the individual was assigned to.
This type of reference is suitable for those individuals that had periods where they were not employed by an employer or recruitment agency, and not registered with any unemployment agency. For example housewives (or husbands), student gap years or any holidays that exceeded 28 days. A Gap reference cannot be for more than 12-months and cannot be completed by someone that is related to the person being referenced. If a person was a housewife for three years, they will have to provide 3 different references from 3 different, non-related referees. The referees must be of a reliable source and in a position to verify the whereabouts of the individual.
In addition to the above referencing each individual may have to provide up to 2 personal references - these must be supplied by someone who has known the individual for at least 2 years.
All full airside pass applicants will have to provide a DBS confirming they have not previously committed any serious crime. A DBS can be obtained (at cost) from DBS by the individual or via a Responsible Organisation if you are an employer. You will typically require a 'Basic' Disclosure for most airport duties.
Before a full airside pass can be considered, the airport authorities require all individuals to have undertaken and passed a GSAT course (General Security Awareness Training). The GSAT is a short course regarding the security of aviation, with a pass or fail test at the end based on the content. The course and test can be completed online by the individual (for a fee), or in some cases airport employers will have their own GSAT training classes, held by an official trainer and normally free of charge. If an individual passes the GSAT test, a certificate will be issued which should then be submitted to the ID Centre along with the other documents.
Access Areas (Full Pass)
The employer that submitted the airside pass application to the ID Centre will have a list of authorised zones and locations depending on the work they carry out in the airport. Even though an individual has been allocated a full pass they can only access the specified airport, and certain zones on airside. Each full pass is colour coded to state which areas are accessible, and very seldom does an employee get access to all areas, unless they have bonafide reasons to do so.
In the case of a BAA airside pass, it can be activated for any of their airports, as long as the employer is authorised by BAA to carry out duties in those locations. A full airside pass can be activated for additional BAA airports after it has been issued.
Each airside pass will carry the name of the employer, and the individuals name. A person with an airside pass can only enter the restricted airside zones to carry out duties for the employer that is stated on the pass, and it is not in any way inter-changeable between companies. If an individual has an airside pass and wants to change employer, the full process has to be repeated for the new employer.
Points To Consider
Documents cannot be drip fed into the ID Centre as and when they arrive. All documents must be collected by the employer and only submitted once they are all present. The ID Centre will only accept applications along with all of the required documents attached.
Once the ID Centre has received the application and the documents are complete, they will start to contact (by telephone) each of the referee's to verify the information. The ID Centre will only speak to the person who signed the reference, and will ask for confirmation of the relevant dates. If any information given verbally by the referee does not match the details on the reference form, the individual will be rejected.
Unfortunately, some of the documents have a limit on when they can be accepted. A DBS certificate will have to be submitted to the ID Centre within 10 weeks of it being issued, and the last, most recent reference (regardless of type) will have to be submitted within 28 days of the date it was signed by the referee. The problem arises when the most recent reference arrives eleven weeks after the DBS was issued. A new DBS certificate must be applied for. When the new DBS arrives, the most recent reference will be out of date. You should leave the most recent reference and DBS towards the end of the process, and gauge the possible length of each one to determine when they should be actioned.
A critical eye is placed on all paperwork by the ID Centre. They are experts in what they do, day in day out, 12-months of the year. Any single reference completed with two different hand writing styles, pen colour etc. will be rejected. The references are considered in chronological order to ensure the exact whereabouts and activities of the individual can be profiled, and again any strange blips will cause the whole application to be void. For example, if a person has not worked for a considerable time, and has not claimed any benefits, it is common for airport ID centres to ask how they supported themselves financially.
Processing an individual for a full airside pass is a lengthy process, and even then cannot guarantee that a person will be accepted by the airport authorities. Collecting the exact referencing information from an individual to cover their last five years takes time in the first place, then there's the waiting for referees to respond (sometimes overseas). In our experience, any airport company should have a regular pool of candidates being processed for an airside pass at any one time, and always a third more than the employer thinks will be a suitable number - Unless you have work immediately for the person, a lot can happen in the time it takes to process a person and peoples circumstances change quickly.
An airside pass must only be used for the reasons it was issued. Should any employee breach these regulations, the airside pass will be removed and the employer will face serious questioning and possible loss of future airside pass applications. The airports have numerous sophisticated measures in place to track and monitor employees throughout the restricted zones - they know who you are, where you are, and where you've just been.
The above airside pass guidelines only relate to general duties around the airport, including apron and limited aircraft access. There are certain areas of the airport that require a much higher level of security to access, such as control towers.
Applying for Airside Jobs
Most airport jobs are advertised as airside, and so a majority of employers will suggest that all applicants have to already have an airside pass. There are a number of reasons for this, mainly because a current pass holder will be able to start as soon as their notice period finishes, whereas a non pass holder could take weeks, even months to process and even then can't be guaranteed that they will be successful with the ID Centre. Although this is perhaps unfair to those who want to start in the airport who don't have a pass, companies do not always have the luxury of being able to wait for a lengthy period of time for an applicant to be processed, accepted by the ID Centre and then be ready to work.
We would suggest if an individual is desperate to work in the airport, look for landside positions. If successful, whilst working try and persuade your employer to process you for an airside pass. Once you have an airside pass, the job opportunities will be endless.
Alternatively, apply for an airside job but send in your completed referencing dates and addresses for the last five years.... make your application look more attractive and easier to process than any other applicant who does not have an airside pass. View free date checker to build your referencing history to a level that will be accepted by the airports.