Imagine yourself walking through a security check-post at an airport without undergoing intrusive searches or avoiding standing in long queues while taking off your belts and shoes and unpacking your belongings.
Yes, this may be soon possible as technology is almost ready. Standardisation of security technology is going on and certifications may be granted in the next 2-3 years.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) unveiled the first mock-up of a 'Checkpoint of the Future' at its annual general meeting in Singapore recently.
The checkpoint is designed to enhance security while reducing queues and intrusive searches at airports, using intelligence-driven risk-based measures.
"Over 2.8 billion passengers are screened per year. We cannot treat our passengers like they are the terrorists we are trying to protect them from," IATA's director security and travel facilitation Kenneth Dunlap told PTI in Singapore.
This checkpoint "ends the one-size-fits-all concept for security," he said.
IATA chief Giovanni Bisignani said, "We spend $7.4 billion a year to keep aviation secure. But our passengers only see hassle. Passengers should be able to get from curb to boarding gate with dignity. That means without stopping, stripping or unpacking, and certainly not groping."
Under this new system, passengers would be categorised as 'known traveler', 'normal' and 'enhanced security'. This determination would be based on a biometric identifier in a passport or travel document that would trigger the results of a risk assessment conducted by government before the passenger arrives at the airport.
The three security lanes would have technology to check passengers according to their individual risk levels.
Passengers would just have to place the passport for a biometric check, following which one of the three lanes would be assigned to them. They would then pass through the assigned lane in the checkpoint and get security screened while walking by without having to remove clothes or unpack belongings.
While 'known travellers' who have registered and completed background checks with government authorities would have expedited access,'normal screening' would be for the majority of travellers.
And those for whom less information is available, who are randomly selected or who are deemed to be an 'elevated risk' would have additional levels of screening.
The IATA's Checkpoint for the Future is being evolved through the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
Dunlap said 19 governments, including the US, are working to define standards for such a checkpoint. The IATA was also closely coordinating with the US Department of Homeland Security's 'Checkpoint of Tomorrow' programme that has similar goals.
"While some of the technology still needs to be developed, even by just re-purposing what we have today, we could see major changes in two or three years time", said IATA chief Bisignani.
Noting that air travel was rebounding with significant growth being witnessed in regions like China and India, Dunlap said aviation remains the highest target for terror attacks.
The latest instances of such attacks range from the December 2009 attempted bombing of a NorthWest flight by an al Qaeda operative and detection of bombs being sent through printer cartridges from Yemen in October 2010 to the January 2011 Domodedevo airport bombing in Moscow.