UK to overhaul airport security: fewer laptop, belt, shoe scans

By John Walton, July 20 2011
UK to overhaul airport security: fewer laptop, belt, shoe scans

The British government is planning radical changes to airport security, which will hopefully improve passengers' experience when transiting through London's Heathrow airport.

That's good news for Australian passengers travelling to the UK and other EU airports via London, who are currently subject to some of the worst immigration and security delays in Europe.

Philip Hammond, the UK transport minister, is encouraging airports to rely on better screening devices rather than notionally random checks, which all too often end up with a certain percentage of passengers just being pulled aside for no specific reason.

The UK is also planning better links between airports and immigration officers of the UK Border Agency, which is aimed at reducing the bottlenecks at immigration that any regular Heathrow traveller will have experienced.

Aviation minister Theresa Villiers told the UK's Daily Telegraph: "What we are looking for is a better security outcome and we want this done in a more passenger-friendly way." 

It's clear that any changes will be underpinned by new technology -- potentially including the unpopular full-body millimetre-wave scanners currently employed at some US airports by the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA). 

The "passenger-friendly" suggested by Ms Villiers could involve the model suggested by airline trade body IATA at its Singapore meeting last month, which Australian Business Traveller walked through.

"Known Travellers" -- the most frequent flyers who submit to advance checking against government lists -- could whizz through security with an iris scan, an X-ray, a metal detector and a liquid detector.

The "normal" group would also have to go through a shoe scan and explosive trace detection process under the IATA model, while passengers subject to "enhanced" screening would be subject to an advanced x-ray and full body scanner.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

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