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  • ​Airport screening as we know it won't change soon: Hololei

​Airport screening as we know it won't change soon: Hololei

Airport security screening will become less intrusive in the future, but the technology necessary has yet to mature.

Henrik Hololei, director general of mobility and transport at the European Commission, admits that current processes for screening passengers are less than ideal from a convenience perspective, but are reliable and keep passengers safe.

"Safety and security are two sides of the same coin, today more than ever before," he says. "Civil aviation continues to be very much a high profile target of terrorism because of its visibility and the potential disruption it brings."

He notes that while there have been terrorist incidents related to aviation in the European Union, these have not breached existing security measures. Rather, they happened landside, before passengers go through security checks.

"If you asked me the checkpoint of the future, I think it will be very different," he says. "Will it materialise tomorrow? No. Will it materialise the day after tomorrow? Perhaps."

Hololei paints a futuristic picture in which people stroll along an alley toward their gate, oblivious to the fact they are being screened. Those passengers considered more worthy of screening may be referred to another lane, where they receive more thorough examination.

One irritant for passengers is the restriction on liquids, and the stipulation that small bottles and such be removed from one's bag. Hololei says technology exists to screen liquids, but presently it sets off too many false alarms.

"Liquid screening technologies are not entirely reliable," he says. "We had the intention of starting to deploy them, but the false alarm rates are too high, and it would have an impact on throughput. It's more reliable to take liquids out. In time, we will move away from the need to take liquids out."

Landside, he adds, there are efforts underway to improve security. Banks of closed circuit television cameras can monitor passengers and can be equipped with facial recognition technology. Cameras can also recognise car licence plates.

"One day we'll get to the ideal checkpoint of the future, but it will take time and I think the vast majority of passengers understand that [security sreening] is there for their own safety," says Hololei.

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