In June 2011, the IATA presented its vision of a “Checkpoint of the Future,” which promised travelers that they would quickly get through the security checkpoint with their clothes, carry-ons, and dignity intact. The Checkpoint of the Future is IATA’s attempt to solve the conundrum of airport security by looking for “bad people and not just bad objects,” according to Dunlap. “We cannot treat our passengers like they are the terrorists we are trying to protect them from,” he says.
IATA is working with like-minded associations, manufacturers, academics, airports, and airlines to refine the concept. Through the International Civil Aviation Organization, 19 states—including the United States, Australia, China, the EU, and Russia—are working to define approaches and common standards for a Checkpoint of the Future.
The foundation of the effort is to use passenger data to determine a flier’s risk profile before he or she reaches the checkpoint. But the checkpoint itself will need to be completely overhauled. If IATA has its way, new security technology will no longer simply get dropped into the old checkpoint, which Dunlap compares to putting a new radio into a clunker and calling it a new car. Rather, airport security will receive a redesign that gives passengers an “uninterrupted journey from curb to aircraft door.”
Early IATA prototypes of the Checkpoint of the Future show passengers strolling through three futuristic walkways labeled “known,” “normal,” and “enhanced.” “Known” passengers who have voluntarily opted into a known traveler program will receive expedited screening, while those passengers on government watch lists or about whom little is known will go through the enhanced security lane. Only passengers routed to the enhanced lane receive a body scan as a primary screening method, barring technological breakthroughs. All other passengers will go through the “normal” security lane, unless randomly selected for enhanced screening. A similar approach is already being tried out in the United States with TSA’s PreCheck known-traveler program.
According to IATA analysis, adding a known-traveler lane increases efficiency by 30 percent. Adding a separate enhanced security lane pushes it up to between 34 percent and 39 percent, a significant improvement over the current checkpoint throughput.
“[IATA] won’t settle for anything less than a revolution in the way passengers are treated at the airport,” according to Dunlap.
That revolution, however, is still about seven to 10 years away because screening technology that allows passengers to walk through the security checkpoint without stopping, unpacking, and removing laptops, belts, and jackets doesn’t exist yet. And whether it will take the shape IATA envisions remains to be seen.