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Posted 21 September 2017 · Add Comment

Evolving threats to aviation security and the approaches used in confronting them are putting pressure on airports and passengers to adjust to new screening procedures, as Keith Mwanalushi reports

Existing aviation security standards and detection capabilities are generally very effective and incorporate high standards of technology. However, the constant changing threat from terrorism means standards are continuously under review – and the public remains at the trailing edge of any changes to screening procedures, often leading to frustration.
Analysts at market research firm, Technavio, predict the global airport passenger screening systems market to grow at more than 4% annually between 2017 and 2021 as the recent increase in global air traffic across has intensified the need for effective passenger and baggage screening systems to maintain operational efficiency and security.
As passenger security screening remains a crucial aspect of airport operations, enhancement of the existing processes can help in improving on-time performance and efficiency. In recent times, more focus has been given to amending screening capabilities, both by governments and private industry.
In March, the US Department for Homeland Security (DHS) confirmed a ban on devices larger than a mobile phone on flights from 10 Middle Eastern and North African airports. This was quickly followed by a similar announcement from the British authorities. Airlines in the region reacted swiftly to meet the new mandate but industry associations continued to voice serious concerns about the impact of the ban, while taking into consideration the issue of safety and security.
In Mid-July, the ban was lifted on flights from those places meeting a new, undetailed, set of security criteria. In a statement, a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) spokesperson said: “Etihad, Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airways and Emirates Airline have initiated the process for lifting the personal electronics device ban by alerting TSA they are ready to comply with the enhanced security measures.”
Royal Jordanian and Kuwait Airlines followed days after and at the time of writing, Saudia said it is working with Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) to implement the new DHS requirements for all US-bound flights, and expects that passengers on its flights to the US will be permitted to take large personal electronic devices into aircraft cabins by late July.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) April 2017 figures indicated passenger demand in general has surged globally but the laptop ban badly affected Middle East-US traffic. The route-level data from March (the most recent month available) shows that revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) flown by Middle East airlines to the US fell in year-on-year terms by 2.8% for the month. This was the first annual decline recorded for this market in at least seven years.
While traffic growth on the market segment was already slowing, the decline is consistent with some disruption from the device ban that was announced on March 21, as well as a wider impact on inbound travel to the US from the Trump administration’s proposed travel bans.
Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO, said there were indications that some passengers were avoiding routes where large device bans were in place.
American Airlines and the TSA have been working on a possible solution that could solve the problem and other related screening issues. The airline is testing a computed tomography (CT) scanner in one checkpoint lane at Phoenix Sky Harbour International Airport’s Terminal 4.
CT checkpoint scanning equipment aims to enhance threat detection capabilities by providing a 3D image that can be viewed and rotated for a more thorough analysis.
“The safety and security of travellers is the number one priority of TSA, and our partnership with industry, such as American Airlines, is critical in helping develop innovative and critical security enhancements,” said TSA acting administrator Huban Gowadia.
“We already use this type of technology for checked baggage, and we expect these smaller checkpoint-sized machines will provide the same high level of security.”
The new CT screening equipment shoots hundreds of images with an X-ray camera that spins around the conveyor belt to provide officers with a picture of a carry-on bag to ensure it does not contain a threat item. The system applies sophisticated algorithms for the detection of explosives, firearms and other items banned in carry-on baggage.
Three-dimensional CT technology could make it possible to allow passengers to leave liquids, gels and aerosols, as well as laptops, in their carry-on bags at all times, which would result in a quicker throughput and less bin use.
 

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