Electronics Ban Expanded Abroad while Security Screenings Tested Domestically

In mid-May, the airline industry and European Union were relieved when U.S officials suspended considerations for expanding the electronics ban. Their relief was short-lived, however, as the U.S reopened the possibility earlier this month.

During a committee hearing on June 7th, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly announced the agency’s intent to expand electronics restrictions. If implemented, the updated electronics ban would affect 71 additional airports. Passengers on U.S direct flights originating from these locations would be prohibited from having electronics larger than a smartphone in carry-on luggage.

Kelly did not reveal the specific airports under consideration. However, DHS has confirmed that the airports are located across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

How Airports can Avoid Electronics Ban Blacklist

Unlike the original March electronics ban, airports will be given the opportunity to be excluded from new restrictions. The original ten airports subjected to the electronics ban will also have the chance to lift limitations.

By implementing new minimum security measures, airports will maintain the ability to fly directly to the Unites States. Options include establishing passenger exchange information processes and enhanced testing, and increasing efforts to thwart insider threats from airline employees. DHS Deputy Secretary Elaine Duke will be meeting with European representatives to discuss ways to avoid the ban.

Domestic Efforts to Increase Aviation Security

As U.S agencies require international organizations to meet higher standards, new technologies are being tested to increase domestic security:

CT Scanning Equipment Re-purposed

At the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, one checkpoint lane has received a serious technology upgrade. Travelers passing through this specific Terminal 4 lane will have their items scanned by cutting-edge CT scanning equipment. The advanced technology is the result of a partnership between American Airlines and the Transportation Security Agency (TSA).

The enhanced 3-D imaging allows for more thorough examinations of passenger belongings at security checkpoints. If successful, passengers could once again carry liquids, gels, and aerosols in carry-on luggage. It would also allow laptops to remain in carry-ons, rather than being scanned in separate bins.

The timing of such advanced screening could not be better. Currently, the TSA is also testing screening procedures that require travelers to remove all electronics from carry-on luggage. CT scanners are already used to clear checked luggage; if the small-scale models are successful, the TSA may not need to require passengers to separate devices from other possessions.

CT-scanning technology will be tested at Boston Logan Airport’s Terminal E later this month. The TSA is overseeing Logan testing, but American Airlines is not involved at this location.

Boarding with Facial Recognition

Also being tested in Boston this month: facial recognition technology. JetBlue Airways has partnered with U.S Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and SITA, global air transport IT specialist, to conduct the tests. Passengers flying JetBlue Boston to Aruba can opt into the testing at the airport. Travelers can forgo a boarding pass and instead have their picture taken and matched to personal identification and flight information. Once cleared, passengers can proceed to the jet bridge. Once there, crew members equipped with mobile devices will assist with final aspects of boarding.

The organizations involved have high hopes for the testing. “If successful, the program will show how technology can make the boarding process simple and seamless for the traveler while enhancing US national security through the implementation of biometric exit,” JetBlue said.

Jim Peters, chief technology officer at SITA, said the goal is simple. “What we want to deliver is a secure and seamless passenger experience,” said Peters. As this biometric integration is the first authorized by the CBP, more testing is necessary. But if successful, Peter believes biometrics, “may prove to be a solution that will be quick and easy to roll out across U.S airports.”

 

At a time when passenger convenience and transportation security have come to odds, these advancements could not be more relevant. Re-purposing existing technologies for new processes promises to support national safety without sacrificing the modern traveler’s needs.

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