Indian airport security officers instructed to 'smile less' to improve passenger confidence

Rahul Bedi
The head of India's Central Industrial Security Force suggested putting passenger comfort over safety had contributed to the September 11 attacks - AFP

Airport security personnel across India have been instructed by their senior officers to smile less, as cheerful faces lead to a perception of laxness.

The 144,000 strong heavily armed federal Central Industrial Security Force or CISF tasked with securing 60 Indian airports, was recently directed to switch from ‘broad smiles’ to ‘sufficient smiles’ whilst on duty.  

Issuing the fiat to sport serious visages in their public dealings earlier this month, CISF Director General Rajesh Ranjan argued that his force’s mandate was security and not ‘customer service’ and ‘smiling broadly’ was not a part of this interaction.   

He also reasoned that ‘excessive friendliness’ and focus on passenger comfort rather than security puts airports at risk of terror attacks and reasoned, without elaborating, that the 9/11 strikes had taken place after US airport security staff were taken in by ‘passenger-friendly faces’.  

The order to smile economically at passengers comes several years after the CISF, which took charge of Indian airports security 2000 onwards, was coached by experts to be polite and solicitous towards passengers.

Hospitality experts from the federal tourism ministry were employed to train thousands of CISF personnel to provide ‘service with a smile, render them ‘passenger friendly’ and to exude ‘warmth’ in their interaction with travellers.     

Meanwhile, the same ‘controlled smile rules’ introduced at airports will also apply at sensitive government buildings across the country and to the Delhi Metro, all of which are secured by the CISF.

This is not the first time that Indian police and security personnel have been asked to undertake changes or modifications in their behaviour or appearance to assist them in their public dealings.

Some years ago police personnel in central Madhya Pradesh province were paid a special monthly allowance to grow luxuriant moustaches, as senior officers believed they bestowed ‘gravitas and authority’ upon their force.