Walk-through sniffer could speed up airport checks

Mon Jun 6, 2011 6:08am EDT
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By David Fogarty

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - It could be the answer for every weary air traveler, a high-tech screening system that filters passengers according to risk and scans and "sniffs" them as they walk through, taking a fraction of the time of a usual security check.

Customs and immigration could also be combined at the same screening station, curbing queues and increasing time for that all-important pre-flight browsing or duty-free shopping.

At an annual meeting of airline chiefs in Singapore, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) displayed for the first time a mock-up of a three-channel passenger screening system of the future.

Pre-flight screening categorizes people according to risk, which then channels them into "enhanced," a polite way of saying highest risk, "normal" and then the least risky, which is "known traveler."

"It's the future we envision about 5 to 7 years from now," said Ken Dunlap, IATA's global director for security and travel facilitation.

"We're looking at a way of increasing security where we don't treat every passenger that has a pair toe-nail clippers as a potential terrorist. We're looking for a paradigm that is based on looking for bad people, not only bad things," he told Reuters on the sidelines of the IATA meeting in a plush casino resort in central Singapore.

Multiple layers of security checks in recent years have greatly increased the time it takes to get on a plane, leading to longer queues, frayed tempers and worries about invasive pat-downs.

IATA envisions technology developments that rapidly screen passengers, depending on the channel they go through, to cover advanced X-ray, shoe scanning, full-body screening, liquid detection and electronic sniffing for traces of explosives.   Continued...

<p>Passengers pull their suitcases outside the main entrance of Zaventem's international airport near Brussels March 14, 2011. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir</p>