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Tech Thursday: Three New Technologies to Make Travel Easier

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I love to travel. Obviously. I wouldn’t work here if I didn’t. And I love when I hear about advances in technology that can help make traveling easier. So you can imagine how excited I was when I saw our friends over at sister mag Executive Travel reported three new improvements that are underway that’ll help speed things up while you get to your destination, so you have more time to enjoy that beachside mojito.

The first will help you speed through the baggage check a little faster. How? By printing out your baggage tag at home, while you’re checking into your flight online. The technology was created by Unisys Corporation, and is currently being tested at Billund Airport in Denmark. When passengers show up at the airport, they simply drop their bags off at a special counter and head on over to security.

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Diabetic Girl's Trauma: Is It Time To Reconsider Full Body Scanners?

A diabetic 16-year-old Colorado girl was emotionally traumatized and her health put at risk by a TSA security check after a full body scanner at Salt Lake City Airport apparently incapacitated her insulin pump, according to a report by a local television station. It's only the latest concern about the scanners, which many consumer advocates consider an intrusive, ineffective, and possibly dangerous form of airport security.

There are now some 700 such machines in use at 180 U.S. airports, according to the TSA. A 2011 report by ProPublica and the PBS NewsHour raised questions about a possible link to cancer. Some scanner models, according to testing by the German government, have mistaken perspiration for dangerous chemicals, casting doubt on their reliability. And many travelers have complained that the scanners invade passengers' privacy by taking "nude" photos of them, although the TSA has since implemented softwarethat eliminates anatomical details from the images. Now the Salt Lake City incident raises the newest fear: Can these "advanced imaging technology" scanners, specifically millimeter wave scanners, be harmful to diabetics wearing insulin pumps?

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Smile! The TSA is Studying Your Facial Tics

terminal a at logan airport

Miffed that airport security full-body scans can feel so cold and impersonal? Don’t worry—your TSA officer may soon want to chat you up before they pat you down.

For the next 60 days or so, select TSA agents at Boston’s Logan Airport, trained to detect behavior that may indicate that a passenger is nervous about more than turbulence, are using their powers of observation to change the screening process.

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Radiation-Free Full-Body Scanners

BBC Travel's Passport Blog |  As controversy simmers surrounding the levels of radiation used in full body scanners, a small company based in the United Kingdom has developed a machine that emits no radiation at all.

Last year, the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) began installing two types of full body scanners at airport security checkpoints across the country. L3’s Provision millimetre wave scanners beam radio waves through clothing to detect potentially dangerous objects hidden by terrorists. Rapiscan backscatter scanners use low-dose x-rays to do the same.

While both companies and the TSA say the radiation emitted by these machines is at safe levels, the scientific community has not reached a strong consensus either way....

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TSA Introduces Less-Revealing Body Scanners

Washington Post |  Those blurry but revealing airport body scanner images that caused a public uproar last year are being replaced by a gray, cookie-cutter image of the human form.

After six months of testing at three airports, including Reagan National, the Transportation Security Administration said Wednesday that the new software would be installed on 241 units at 41 airports that use millimeter wave technology.

Software for an equal number of units that use backscatter technology is still being developed, the TSA said. Both work by bouncing X-rays or radio waves off skin or concealed objects.

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“STUCK”: Everything You Wish You Could Do in an Airport

STUCK from Joe Ayala on Vimeo.

Well, that’s one way to cure boredom! Stuck, the viral short film sensation created by Joe Ayala and Larry Chen, depicts the twosome’s epic adventures during an overnight layover in the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, including but not limited to wheelchair races, sneaking in a beer at a deserted bar, and a wet paper towel fight in the bathroom. Chen and Ayala, who are professional automotive photographers, released the video last month, prompting questions about the apparent lack of security in the terminal.

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TSA Changes Pat-Down Procedures for Kids

Associated Press |  The government has made a change in its policy for patting down young children at airport checkpoints, and more are promised.

Airport security workers will now be told to make repeated attempts to screen young children without resorting to invasive pat-downs, the head of the Transportation Security Administration said Wednesday. The agency is working to put that change in place around the country, and it should reduce, but not eliminate, pat-downs for children, an agency spokesman said.

There was public outrage in April over a video of a 6-year-old girl getting a pat-down in the New Orleans airport. She was patted down, John Pistole said, because she moved during the electronic screening, causing a blurry image.

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Holograms Debut at British Airports

London’s Luton and Manchester airports officially have received a Trekkie–approved makeover. Starting today, passengers approaching the security check-in sections of the airports will welcomed, and given instructions, by holograms. Well, sort of. They’re not holograms in the traditional sense, they’re close (and cool) enough. Large sheets of glass are cut into the shape of people, with images of attendants Holly and Graham—get it??—projected onto them.

The idea is not to replace airport security staff with holograms, but to “help them to do their job even better, by communicating compellingly and consistently,” according to Glyn Jones, managing director of London Luton Airport.

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TSA Shuts Door on Private Airport Screening

Washington (CNN) | A program that allows airports to replace government screeners with private screeners is being brought to a standstill, just a month after the Transportation Security Administration said it was "neutral" on the program.

TSA chief John Pistole said Friday he has decided not to expand the program beyond the current 16 airports, saying he does not see any advantage to it.

Though little known, the Screening Partnership Program allowed airports to replace government screeners with private contractors who wear TSA-like uniforms, meet TSA standards and work under TSA oversight. Among the airports that have "opted out" of government screening are San Francisco and Kansas City.

The push to "opt out" gained attention in December amid the fury over the TSA's enhanced pat downs, which some travelers called intrusive.

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Pilot Posts Video Exposing Gaps in Airport Security

If you've ever wondered about the ground crew responsible for handling your baggage, refueling your plane, heck, even loading your meals onto the plane — you're not alone. An unidentified pilot recorded one airport's seemingly lax security on his cellphone, then posted it to YouTube. AOL Travel has the full story (and the video):

An anonymous 50-year-old airline pilot is in hot water with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) after posting on YouTube a behind-the-scenes tour of what he says are security flaws at San Francisco International Airport...

"Well, folks, I just wanted to give you an idea of what type of security for the ground personnel there is. This is their screening. As you can see, there's only a card slide and one door," the pilot says in the video. "And right here's a sign, 'Think security.' Well, I don't think there's much security here."

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