With airlines looking to reduce check in times at airports, it looks as though eye scanners and biometric passport chips are on their way to an airport near you soon.
A mock up unveiled by the International Air Transport Association in Singapore last weekend, known as the “Check-in of the Future” demonstrated exactly how airlines envisage future check-in procedures to work – with passengers walking down 20-foot long check-in tunnels which scan everything from their hand luggage to their shoes.
“We want passengers to be able to retain their dignity when they check in at the airport,” said IATA Director Giovanni Bisignani. “What that means is no stopping, no stripping or unpacking luggage and absolutely no more being groped by strangers.”
Airlines are attempting to recapture the interest of dozens of passengers who have been put off flying in recent years by the irritating and seemingly worsening security checks at airports. Many passengers now prefer to travel by car, bus, train or boat rather than put up with the checks, resulting in profits in the industry plummeting from $18 billion last year to an expected $4 billion this year, according to IATA.
John Pistole of the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says he thinks the new security system designed by IATA is a fantastic idea and can wait to see it installed, although that could still be five years away.
“This is certainly long overdue,” he said at the annual conference of the IATA. “It’s not quite ready yet but it is something we are working towards, eventually we will see something in place.”
It’s hoped that the new system will see low-risk passengers check-in in just a few minutes, walking through the tunnel which scans luggage and shoes in under a minute – much faster than the average 35 minutes it takes currently, said IATA.
Passengers designated high-risk however, would have to walk through a separate, full-body scan tunnel which will be able to detect concealed explosives and other weapons.
“The idea is to move away from a system that looks for dangerous objects, and instead looks for dangerous people,” explained Bisignani.
Meanwhile, the TSA has been working on its own system which has a similar goal. It is hoped the TSA system will be able to separate passengers according to level of security risk as part of the effort to reduce needless security checks.
“Security doesn’t have to be so stringent for everybody,” said Pistole about the new system.
The TSA is hoping to begin a pilot scheme of its later this year, wherein frequent flyers and travelers with clean criminal records will be allowed to bypass airport security with minimal checks.
Passengers will be assessed for their level of risk by the government and then categorized accordingly, with that information being stored on a chip in the individual’s passport. Eye scanners would then be used to match the individual to the passport.