Futuristic Flying: Securer, Faster Airport Check-Ins

International Airport Transport Association

 (International Airport Transport Association)

Imagine heading through an airport check-in with ease, not having to remove clothes to step through a checkpoint and having an eye scanner verify identities.

The International Airport Transport Association unveiled in Singapore on Tuesday a prototype of its Checkpoint of the Future, where passengers are separated by security risk and tunnel-like scanners quickly identify any liquids or explosives in shoes and carry-on luggage.

Todays checkpoint was designed four decades ago to stop hijackers carrying metal weapons. We need a process that responds to todays threat, IATA CEO Giovanni Bisignani said in a statement. It must amalgamate intelligence based on passenger information and new technology. That means moving from a system that looks for bad objects, to one that can find bad people.

The futuristic checkpoint is designed to enhance security while reducing queues and intrusive searches at airports, which have been a point of debate ever since the Transportation Security Administration started using its controversial full-body scanners at certain U.S. airports late last year.

Passengers should be able to get from curb to boarding gate with dignity, Bisignani said. That means without stopping, stripping or unpacking, and certainly not groping.

The IATA said it hopes the new check-in would ease fears some passengers have of current checkpoints, and encourage more customers to use airplanes for travel. The aviation industry has been reeling under intense oil costs and lower-than-usual traffic, causing airline profits to plunge and certain companies such as Delta (NYSE:DAL) to slash capacity. 

The new security system would quickly separate passengers approaching the checkpoint into one of three lanes. The most expedited lane would be for known travelers, or those who have registered and completed background checks with the government. The next fastest would be for the normal traveler, which would be targeted for a majority of fliers, and then elevated risk travelers, which would be either randomly selected passenger or those deemed to be a higher risk.

While the higher risk fliers would require an additional level of screening, the technology being developed would allow passengers to walk through the tunnel without having to remove clothes or unpack their belongings.

The IATA said it is working with the International Civil Aviation Organization and 19 governments, including the U.S., to define standards for a Checkpoint of the Future. It is also coordinating its standards with the Department of Homeland Securitys Checkpoint of Tomorrow program.

Follow Jennifer Booton on Twitter at @Jbooton