Throughput. Another issue is throughput, which refers to how many passengers can file through the checkpoint per hour.
Currently, airport security checkpoints can process on average 149 passengers per hour. Before 9-11, it was 350 people per hour because the screening was less rigorous. The current processing rates, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), are unsustainable, and simple math shows why. Between now and 2015, the IATA estimates that 700 million new passengers will take their first flight. By mid-century, IATA believes 16 billion people will fly annually. That means throughput needs to accelerate.
Some critics, like Ken Dunlap, the IATA’s global director of security and travel facilitation, say that AITs remain one barrier to making screening faster, but others, like L-3’s Frain, blame the carry-on baggage screening process for the slow throughput. Frain notes that the AIT scans take a few seconds, while carry-on baggage screening is on the rise as checked-bag fees push more and more people to bring more bags to the checkpoint.
Recent stress tests of ProVision machines conducted by TSA achieved throughputs as high as 300 passengers per hour, disclosed Frain. The only difference between the stress test and the actual security checkpoint was TSA relied solely on the ProVision machine and did not use a metal detector as backup. Test passengers still followed TSA protocols in use at U.S. airports every day.
Dunlap notes that while the time in the AIT machine may be short, the front-end and back-end of the process are not, especially when passengers aren’t used to the security protocols, according to IATA studies. “This new technology requires a different type of education for the passengers, it requires a different education for the screeners, and then it requires a resolution process,” he says, adding that some airports averaged one passenger every 75 seconds. This doesn’t mean that AITs have no role at the checkpoint, says Dunlap. They do, he notes, but primarily as a secondary screening method.