Flyers will now need to take off footwear before body scan at Delhi airport
Passengers flying out from Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) will have to take off their footwear before the mandatory body scan as part of the security check-in procedure starting in April, according to senior officers from the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which secures the Delhi airport.
This is because extensive tests conducted on the body scanning machines showed that it did not deliver accurate results below the ankle. The CISF have been testing out the German-made machines since November last year.
Removing footwear is a practice in several airports around the world, including several European nations and the United States.
Last June, the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) asked for body scanners to be installed at joint-venture airports, such as the IGIA, by April 2020. Following this, six airports in the country will start the use of body scanners by April, and other government-operated airports will follow suit by April 2021.
According to senior officers, the scanner at IGIA has been successful in detecting suspicious and prohibited items.
“In 2017, we tested body scanners that were like telephone booths. A passenger had to go in and it would take around 8-10 seconds for the scan. The current one is an open structure with faster scanning,” said an officer with direct knowledge of the trials who asked not to be named.
The officer said a few tested passengers complained of feeling claustrophobic in the previous version. “The new scanner is more efficient. Earlier, we could not detect anything above a passenger’s eyes requiring them to take off head gear, be it a turban, hats or caps. The only drawback the current scanner has is that it does not properly detect anything below ankle, and the passengers will have to take off their footwear.”
Another officer, who also asked not be named, said that the new machine raised fewer false alarms. “The body scanners being tested currently are very precise but no machine can do away with manual intervention. Once it gives us a mannequin image of the passenger we can decide which area needs to be manually checked,” he said.
The door-frame detectors, which are in use at Indian airports at the moment, however, will not be completely done away with. “We will still use them for passengers with disability and for those with some medical condition,” the officer said.
Assistant inspector general, CISF, Hemendra Singh confirmed the developments and said that the airport operator will be procuring the machines to install them in phased manner, starting April.
A spokesperson from the Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL) said 69 body scanners will be installed at the Delhi airport. “At present we are testing the equipment internally. Discussions are on with CISF regarding installation of these machines,” DIAL said. A body scanner costs around ₹80 lakh.
Further, the spokesperson said the latest body scanners have “millimeter wave technology which is non-intrusive, and takes care of the privacy norms and conforms to BCAS specifications.”