After long wait times at airport security checks in India sparked uproar on social media and grabbed headlines recently, a few significant changes in the rules are on the cards.
The Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) has reportedly made a new recommendation – install scanners equipped with sophisticated tech to ease the congestion at airports.
At present, passengers are asked to take out their phones, laptops, chargers, and electronic devices from their handbags and place them on trays for screening. While the task may seem menial, it actually takes up time, requires more trays per person, and increases the screening load for the security staff. With these scanners, that could all change.
What does this mean for those who fly in and out of Indian airports? Are there any other steps being taken? How exactly will they be implemented? Could they actually end up making the check-in process smoother? Here are the key answers.
What was the recommendation? Who proposed it?
The installation of scanners that give airport security officials a 3D view of all the objects in a passenger's hand baggage was recommended by BCAS Joint Director General Jaideep Prasad, as per a PTI report.
BCAS is a separate department under the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) that comes up with new security measures for passenger flights and domestic as well as international airports in India.
What could change for flyers? Which airports in India would see the change?
"With such scanners, passengers will not be required to take out their electronic devices from hand baggage before going through the scanner," Prasad was quoted as saying by PTI.
These devices would be set up at the baggage scanning counters of airports in four key cities – Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad.
What is special about these scanners? Which type of baggage will be screened using them?
The underlying tech of these devices is called computed tomography (CT). Here's how they typically differ from the scanners currently in use at Indian airports, as per a TechCrunch report:
Offers 3D view of objects in a bag as opposed to the present 2D-view scanners
Comes with a spinning X-ray camera that gives security officials a 360 degree view
Capable of taking hundreds of images in one second
Images captured are more granular as well as interactive in nature
These new scanners would be used to screen hand baggage, in other words cabin or carry-on baggage.
Will this help address bottlenecks at airport security checks? How?
In order to answer this question better, let's quickly recap why India's largest airport was choked recently.
Over the first few weeks of December, serpentine lines for security checks and frustrating delays in boarding were reported at Terminal 3 of the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi.
One of the affected flyers who spoke to The Quint, had pointed out that requiring passengers to have their phones, iPads, chargers, and other electronic devices screened using separate trays was part of the problem.
On top of this, it is winter in Delhi and everyone is wearing a jacket which also has to be screened, so it increases the load for the person screening the trays, he had added.
Since the cumbersome screening of hand baggage is likely what exacerbated the crisis at Delhi airport, the use of 3D scanners could contribute to cutting down on the wait times. But by how much? That will have to be seen.
Has the government made any other efforts?
The Director Generals of DGCA and BACS, airport operators from Bengaluru and Mumbai, and other government officials took part in a meeting that was chaired by Civil Aviation Secretary Rajiv Bansal on Wednesday, 22 December.
"Airport operators must install additional capacity and redesign their systems and processes, wherever needed to be in readiness for any peak demand scenario," Bansal emphasised at the meeting, as per a government press release.
The press release also revealed other steps being taken to address congestion at peak hours, such as:
Putting up sign boards to indicate the waiting time at entry gates in real-time
Checking whether all airlines are adequately manning their check-in counters
Installation of additional X-ray machines to increase the number of security lanes
Rebalancing the peak hour flight schedule with the availability of security lanes
The Ministry of Civil Aviation also informed Parliament that it is looking to roll out new tech in the country's sensitive and hypersensitive airports. This includes:
Computer Tomography Explosive Detection Systems (CT-EDS)
Dual Generator X-BIS machines
Perimeter Intrusion Detection Systems (PIDS)
Full Body Scanners
Radiological Detection Equipment (RDE)
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