Whether flying for business or leisure, a universal truth endures: Security is a pain.
Which is why the International Air Transport Association unveiled its security "checkpoint of the future" in early June. Its model could be the airport security standard in less than 10 years, and on paper, it looks like quite an improvement.
In this hassle-free world, passengers are screened before arriving at the airport, identify themselves at the airport with biometrics (such as a fingerprint), briefly encounter a behavioral specialist, then walk through a tunnel that checks for explosives and other deal breakers while shoes remain on feet, bags remain in hand and liquids remain safely zipped away.
While such goals seem like a headline grab, the ideas are too enticing to ignore. They're rooted in looking for "'bad' people, not just 'bad' objects" — a risk-based assessment of travelers that would reduce the burden on us all (except, hopefully, for the bad guys).
The biggest change is deviating from a "one size fits all" approach to airport security. Instead of everyone walking though the same metal detector or backscatter X-ray machine, travelers would be assigned to one of three screening lanes: "known traveler" (someone who probably has registered with his government and submitted biometrics), "normal" (which would accommodate most people) and "enhanced" (those deemed a greater risk based on a variety of factors, including travel history).
Chris Goater, an association spokesman, added that redesigned security "must not in any way feel like someone is being discriminated against with regard to race, gender or religion."
Though the entire concept wouldn't appear overnight in airports, parts of it could be implemented gradually. Concepts such as the three lanes of screening can be attained reasonably soon, Goater said. Allowing people to walk through security without unpacking "is a bit more difficult, to be honest."
"Those technologies are five to seven years out," Goater said.
The plan's impetus is the aviation industry's image problem, Goater said.
"It's hard to deny there is one," he said. "If you look at the single thing that has diminished the passenger experience since 9/11, it's added security procedures, which were added for goo d reason: Safety is the No. 1 priority. But we are as frustrated as anyone about what you have to go through to get on a plane. We need to start again."
A Transportation Security Administration spokesman did not comment specifically on the plan but said by email, "Since 9/11 we have created a multilayered system for aviation security to keep the public safe."
Translation: Though significant change to airport security seems inevitable, don't expect it anytime soon.
SECURITY FAST LANE
—The key is to anticipate what is expected of you. Here are some TSA tips:
—Arrive on time. Arrival time recommendations vary by airline and day of travel, so check with the air carrier.
—Wear slip-on shoes.
—Remove animals from carrying cases and send cases through the X-ray machine. Hold pets in your arms and proceed through the metal detector.
—Strollers and baby carriers go through X-ray machines. If possible, collapse the stroller before arriving at the metal detector.
—Think before you speak. Belligerent behavior, inappropriate jokes and threats will result in delays and possibly missing flight departures.
(Adapted from tsa.gov)