TSA Is Reimagining Airport Security Checkpoints: First Self-Service Kiosk Opens Next Month

TSA is working on three new security systems that reimagine airport checkpoints, investing in technology to screen more passengers effectively using self-service rather than scaling up the number of screeners the government employs. Passengers will start using the first one beginning next month.

Here’s what they’re working on.

  • Pod-based design with individual screening consoles, carry-on screening system and flat panel passenger screening
  • In-motion panel sensors for screening as passengers move through checkpoints​​​​
  • Integrated carry-on bag conveyance system with security equipment and automated entry and exit doors​​

Credit: Department of Homeland Security

The first test project is rolling out at the Las Vegas airport. PreCheck passengers will complete the security process independently, using individual consoles or lanes. Passengers will be prompted by machines through each screening step.

  • Starting in January, PreCheck passengers in Vegas can test out an automated screening lane with carry-on bag conveyance system. They’ll be given instructions by a video monitor. And they’ll go through automated entry and exit doors.

  • Passengers who don’t pass screening the first time, for instance leaving items in their pocket, the entry door will open back up for them to take those items out and be re-screened.

  • When passengers clear screening, the automated exit door opens and instructs them to gather their belongings.

System To Be Tested In January, Credit: Department Of Homeland Security

TSA describes the project as part of its effort to “increase screening efficiency and improve the passenger experience while keeping a stable number of Transportation Security Officers” or put another way: spend massively on capital equipment to avoid hiring more people.

Willie Sutton said he robbed banks because “that’s where the money is.” But that’s only because he came too early to know about selling new technologies and equipment to the TSA. One after another, generation after generation of the latest TSA-promoted technology eventually ends up mothballed from backscatter machines and Rapiscan and now we have analogic screening devices meant to speed up checkpoints actually slowing them down. Here we have contracts with Micro-X, Vanderlande Industries, and Voxel Radar. That second one can’t be real, right?

Credit: Department of Homeland Security

Ultimately, TSA is supposed to prevent dangerous items from going through security checkpoints, which requires on focusing on dangerous items and not sci-fi plots. It requires a focus on real threats and not taking scissors away. But that’s not even correct. TSA itself has said there were no known threats against aviation, it’s all hypothetical. And if there were, hardening airport checkpoints just pushes the threat to somewhere else. It doesn’t make people safer, but it prevents TSA from being blamed for the next disaster because it’ll happen outside its area of responsibility.

(HT: @RossFeinstein)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. It’s about time some new tech and new ideas would try to re-imagine how to get people through the TSA screening in a more efficient manner…

  2. Unfortunately the TSA is hooked as ever to its “passenger ID is security” garbage and it still wants to avoid making PreCheck type screening at the airport the default screening for passengers regardless of weak “background checks”.

  3. The analogical machine had everyone backed up multiple times more than the old method.

    It was a hot mess.

  4. Want a more efficient airport experience? Then end the TSA-mandated passenger identity checks and make PreCheck type screening at the airport screening checkpoints the default approach to screening of passengers without this paid “trusted traveler” program nonsense with its dog and pony show passenger “background checks”.

  5. I see this like self-checkout machines at the supermarket. In theory, they can work well when the items being scanned don’t deviate from a standard. If it can speed up the process for those of us with a Trusted Traveler program so that someone doesn’t have to manually look at our ID’s, then a computer screen, then our faces, then look at the ID again after they’ve manually entered them into a scanner that validated the ID, then I’m all for this trial.

  6. the problem w/ self-service technology is that the real people that know how to use it have to stand behind those that do not and who muck up the works – even if the system works consistently right.

    I would love to get rid of the incessant yelling from TSA employees and see automation replace alot of useful jobs but I doubt that this will all work.

    And if it is possible to automate analysis of baggage screening – not just the ID verification process – then why aren’t they using that now?

  7. Since large box stores are now rethinking self-checkout because of so many glitches, this seems like just the right time for the TSA to try it.

  8. How about egates for passport control when returning to the US. Most European and Asian countries have them now and allow US passport holders to use them. So entering these countries is a lot easier than here at home even with global entry!

  9. Well it is like the horror of drug testing, which doesn’t deal with what is by far the most widely abused drug of all, alcohol. So long as people accept the show either with resignation or credulity, and insurance companies demand it, then folks will profit from it. And I bet all these companies are giving lovely “donations” to people in Congress, courtesy of the Citizens United decision. Look I’m on a cruise ship now going through the Red Sea. They closed the gym’s side curtains at night because of a fear of “pirates” (not likely in the heavily traveled shipping lane an hour out of Suez) but the whole back of the room has no curtains and is well lit! And this isn’t exactly a stealth bomber, nor are we in a World War 2 convoy keeping a total blackout to fool U-Boats. But they can say the “did something.” It’s the same thinking here.

  10. No entering the US you are considered a risk even with Global Entry and need a real person to let you in.

  11. I will never pay extra for Global Entry or TSA Precheck just for the freebie of not taking my shoes off. I paid my taxes and I already am under surveillance anywhere I go and at all times, background check or not.

  12. TSA is wrong. Identities can be forged, assumed or created. For this reason, background checks and trusted traveler programs can never provide safety. Plus, honest citizens should not have to endure the intrusion into their privacy.
    TSA should focus there attention on scanning for physical threats like weapons on the person and luggage of travelers. This method works exceptionally well for EL AL. Anything else is a waste of time, energy and resources.

  13. Now if they can only get rid of those stupid machines at SLC for carry on items the world would be a happier place

  14. I don’t know much faster I can fly thru security when I already have global entry and Clear. Last time in NY took all of 2 minutes. Same at LAX. Precheck was already great and Clear makes it better.

  15. Nothing wrong with a test. Heck, I’d fly to Vegas just to see how it works in person. If it helps reduce the number of TSA agents screaming at people to take their shoes off and laptops out, I’m all for it.
    But Gary’s not wrong in the sense that airport security is largely a jobs program.

  16. The TSA is a joke, an evil one, and like most government programs, it shouldn’t be “improved”, it should be eliminated.

  17. a question about forthcoming new self service kiosks at airports…will they be accessible to disabled passengers? I am Deaf and wonder if they include captions for me to read when voices are used for instructions/commands or prompting us. Otherwise, this whole technology becomes a joke and ends up being mothballed again like previous ones.

  18. Piggybacking on Roman’s comment, what about other people with disabilities who use precheck? My child has type 1 diabetes and uses and insulin pump and a glucose monitor. He can’t go through the xray scatter machines and his pump needs to be hand checked.

  19. What the TSA line needs is a reject rule. If you have to empty your pockets and take stuff off at the point of screening you instantly get rejected back to the end of the line.

  20. There are still people who have a hard time with self service gas and self check out at Target.

  21. James N

    Do not dare to say that around that overpaid retired former city defense attorney TWA 8 8 4 or he may seek to block you permanently in his sandbox.

  22. I have one joint replacement and almost always get a butt rub and my junk/ groin massaged groped each and every time.In Australia never wtf? Oh yes a pat down excuse me
    Awful they cant tell the difference between a gun and a body part despite spending billions on security

  23. How safe are those scanners for your health? If you fly often and had to go through that screening machine everytime. Even for the TSA workers who will be monitoring the screening area, will there be a threat on their health for being close and surrounded by those screening machines?

  24. Vanderlande Industries is unfortunately very real & responsible for the disastrous bag handling systems at Heathrow. Heard they are doing a project at KDFW too. I used to check bags on longer trips (for example to Europe) and I credit Vanderlande technology for breaking me of that habit.

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