April 15, 2024

A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security checkpoint after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) lifted a ground stop at Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport (LIT) in Little Rock, Arkansas, US, on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023.

Photo: Al Drago (Getty Images)

The Transportation Security Administration is testing new self-screening checkpoint lanes at Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas. The new process promises passengers shorter wait lines without the hassle of taking off shoes and outerwear or removing electronics from carry-on bags. While the smoother procedure will be welcomed, it raises the question of whether the prior two decades of security theater were even worth it.

The six-month trial in Las Vegas is only available to flyers with TSA PreCheck and instructions are currently only in English, according to the Associated Press. Passenger will be greeted by a screen with directions on how to get through the checkpoint on their own. They will be directed to put their belongings into a bin as usual, but the inspection system is fully automated. The bin return is fitted with an ultraviolet light emitter to keep everything sanitary between uses. The passenger will then head into a full-body scanner. There another video will show them how to pose. Christina Peach, a TSA branch manager, told the AP:

“Really, one of the main aims here is to allow individuals to get through the system without necessarily having to interact directly with an officer and at their own pace. It’s also about not feeling rushed.”

The goal is to minimize the amount of interaction a person would have with a TSA officer, including reducing the number of manual searches and pat-downs. Typically, it takes a dozen officers to staff two checkpoint lanes. The self-service lanes would cut that number down to eight. The agency has stated that personnel removed from these lanes would be assigned to broader tasks, and not lose their jobs. TSA employees, some of the lowest paid federal law enforcement agents, got their largest-ever pay increase in 2023, and the agency is fighting for $1.4 billion in the federal budget to cover it.

While the TSA touts this trial as a prototype, program manager John Fortune told the AP that the scanners being used in Vegas are similar to those already in use. It feels like the TSA is always a day late and a dollar short to the detriment of the taxpayers and airline passengers. There’s a need for some screening process to keep potentially dangerous items out of the skies, but the current system seems far too cumbersome. The TSA hopes to expand the trial to other airports in the future, and it can’t happen fast enough.

This article was originally posted on Jalopnik.

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