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American Airlines & TSA Collaborate To Test New Screening Technology

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In a press release today, American Airlines announced they are working alongside TSA to test a new state-of-the-art screening technology at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.  Specifically, at Terminal 4, one TSA checkpoint lane is using newly released computed tomography (CT) scanning equipment to examine carry-on bags and personal items.

TSA reports an additional demonstration will also take place at a checkpoint lane at Logan International Airport (BOS), Terminal E later this month.

A Brief History

CT scanners were first introduced in the 1970’s and are widely used today in the medical field for diagnostic purposes.  These scanners use a 360-degree x-ray beam to shoot hundreds of images which yield a computerized production of cross-sectional images or “slices”.  If a number of these image slices are stacked together, a 3-D image can be formed.

When it comes to the travel industry, CT technology is already being used at airports with larger format machines for scanning checked luggage.

Why Use CTs for TSA Security Checkpoint Screenings?

American Airlines states the use of CT scanning for security screening should enhance threat detection capabilities.  The CT scan will provide officers with a 3-D image that can be viewed and rotated for a more in-depth analysis of the item being screened.  Reportedly, the new system applies sophisticated algorithms for the detection of explosives, firearms and other items banned from carry-on baggage.

TSA Acting Administrator Huban Gowadia affirms the rationale behind the use of this new technology:

“The safety and security of travelers is the number one priority of TSA, and our partnership with industry, such as American Airlines, is critical in helping develop innovative and critical security enhancements.  We already use this type of technology for checked baggage, and we expect these smaller checkpoint-sized machines will provide the same high level of security.” (source)

American Airlines Senior Vice President – Customer Experience, Kerry Philipovitch states:

“Enhancing aviation security is a shared responsibility, and we appreciate the TSA’s partnership in testing this new state-of-the-art equipment at our Phoenix hub.” (source)


What Does This Mean For The Customer Experience?

Actually, CT scanning could be a positive upgrade to your TSA security checkpoint experience.  The use of CT scanners is expected to notably decrease security wait times due to the efficiency of the machines.  With this improved threat detection system in place, it’s possible that passengers will be able to leave laptops as well as liquids, gels, and aerosols inside their carry-on bags.

With this improved threat detection system in place, it’s possible that passengers will be able to leave laptops as well as liquids, gels, and aerosols inside their carry-on bags.   Considering the fact that just one passenger unaware of the current 3-1-1 rule can significantly stall a lane, this new protocol could save time and aggravation leading to an improvement in overall customer satisfaction.

How Long Before I See CT Scanning at My Airport?

Neither the press release from American Airlines nor the release from TSA gives projections on a timetable for future roll-outs.  The AA press release simply states: “If the pilot testing is successful, TSA and American Airlines may deploy CT technology to other checkpoint locations.”

The report from Bloomberg Technology, states a ‘widespread rollout could take some time. Following previous failed introductions of new equipment, the Transportation Security Administration requires many layers of tests. Also, Congress hasn’t appropriated funds for large purchases of new devices, which cost several hundred thousand dollars apiece and would require $1 billion or more to install at thousands of security lines in the U.S.’

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