Everybody agrees airport security is a necessary pain. What they don’t agree on is how best to balance security and privacy, how to protect airplanes while preserving basic dignities.
“We spend $7.4 billion a year to keep aviation secure,” says International Air Transport Association Director General and CEO Giovanni Bisignani, “but our passengers see only hassle.” Bisignani believes you should be able “to get from curb to boarding gate with dignity.” Among other things, that means not having to stop, strip, unpack or get groped. The IATA chief contends, “We must make coordinated investments for civilized flying.”
One possible way to get there is via the so-called ‘Checkpoint of the Future,’ a conceptual three-tiered set-up that segregates flyers according to potential risk.
Approach security and you’d be directed to one of three lanes: known traveler, normal or enhanced security. Who goes where would be determined by a biometric identifier embedded in your passport or other documents. The identifier, in turn, would trigger a risk assessment. That assessment would be conducted by a government before you get to the airport.
Known travelers would get expedited, comparatively hassle-free passage through security. Normal screening would come into play for most passengers. Flyers about whom less is known, who are randomly selected, or are considered an elevated risk get more thorough screening.
Bisignani believes this approach “responds to today’s threats,” and moves from “a system that looks for bad objects, to one that can find bad people.”
People have been talking about an approach like this for years. Through the International Civil Aviation Organization, 19 countries, including the United States, are working right now to define standards for this future security portal. Whether it materializes at an airport near you anytime soon remains very much to be seen. But Bisignani maintains, “We could see major changes in two or three years’ time.”
Story by Jerry Chandler