Air travel is
about to get a lot more modest.
Security Administration (TSA), the US governmental agency responsible for travel security, is
scrapping its controversial full-body scanners, which show near-naked images of passengers to TSA agents.
public complaints and a congressional mandate, the TSA announced on 17 January that
it will pull its last 174 full-body scanners from 30 US airports by 1 June.
Airports in Phoenix, San Diego, Pittsburgh, Seattle and Fort Lauderdale are
among those that currently use the scanner.
came after Rapiscan, the company
that makes the body scanners, said it could not meet a congressional-ordered
deadline to install privacy software on the machines. The full-body scanners
will be replaced with 700mm wave body scanners, which use radio waves rather
than the more harmful X-rays, and are already in use in 170 airports around the
US. Rather than depicting a near-naked image of flyers who pass through, millimetre
wave scanners produce a generic cartoon-like outline with potentially dangerous
objects highlighted. (Travellers can always opt out of either scan and request a
full-body pat-down instead)
advocates who have protested the scanners since they came into wide use
following the failed
2009 Christmas Day bombing by the “underwear bomber”, the decision marks a
our most significant concern [about full-body scanners]”, Marc Rotenberg,
executive director of the Electronic Privacy
Information Center, a privacy advocacy group, told
the Wall Street Journal. "Not having TSA agents sitting in darkened
rooms looking at naked pictures of people getting on a plane is a good
full-body scanners, modern-day air travellers are already used to other
security measures that impede speed and efficiency, such as the removal of
shoes, laptops and liquids at security checkpoints. And with an estimated 1.3
billion people flying out of US airports each year by 2032, according to the US Federal Aviation Administration, that adds up
to a lot of airport congestion.
to air and security experts, the checkpoint of the future could be a lot faster, easier and less
stressful, thanks to advanced technology that will streamline the process.
The International Air Transport
Association, a worldwide travel industry group, is working on measures that
will allow passengers to get their boarding passes using fingerprint or retinal
scans and then pass through the checkpoint. The proposals are still in early
phases, with details to emerge as supporting technology is developed.
of the checkpoint of the future is to make security even better than it is
today but to remove those hassles and to make it streamlined and a better
experience for the passenger,” Perry Flint, the Association’s spokesman, told
This just might
the waning of an aggravating and inefficient era in air travel and the
beginning of a faster, easier one.