a large machine in a building

I just had my first experience with the “next generation”of airport security scanners and wow, color me impressed.

For the first time in my life, I went from curbside to gate in exactly 3 minutes, without using a priority lane, PreCheck or some sort of fast track, and watched even the most amateur travelers fly through the airport too.

Here’s everything you need to know about these game changers, which mean even if you’re not an extra special first class, fast track, TSA PreCheck, Global Entry or CLEAR member, your next trip through an airport might be remarkably better.

New Analogic Airport Security Scanners

When the White House recently announced that TSA Airport screening would be sped up by new machines, I was skeptical, but I’m now a serious believer. These machines are found in select airports around the world, but not widely, yet.

I went through London City Airport this morning – yes, in London, England – but the new security machines being trialled are the ones which the TSA in the United States recently placed a (massive) order for.

To be specific, they’re the Analogic CT X-Ray machines, which began trials for the TSA in 2018. They’re now up to the task, it appears.

a large machine in a room

In short: they offer security perks currently only available in the USA to people with TSA PreCheck, which allows these select travelers to leave liquids, laptops and pretty much everything else in their bags, rather than remove them.

In combination with new body scanners which allow you to leave shoes and jackets on, the experience is simply remarkable. You basically chuck your bag and keep walking.

The New Security Experience

London City Airport wasn’t operating a “fast track” lane, nor do they have a pre-check equivalent. Historically, everyone departing the UK must take liquids, laptops and most other electronics out of their bag.

This is still true in most of the world, and really, for most travelers in the USA too, since many do not pay for the “leave your laptop in” lans.

This practice of making people take liquids and electronics out causes at least 20-30 seconds of delay for smooth travelers, and sometimes many minutes for ill-prepared novices, who must then bag up their liquids and find the gear in their jam packed bags.

On a one person basis this isn’t necessarily material, but that is just not how security works. Every 30 second delay creates a longer, knock on effect, which when dealing with many hundreds or thousands of travelers, creates the long queues we know.

Not with these machines, though.

Describing them, I can only say they look like a big jet engine. From the rear, they really do. A big long cylindrical tube with an almost aerodynamic feel. They’re not the boxy things you’re accustomed to seeing.

As the person in front of me reached to pull out liquids, the security agent said “everything stays in” and off the bag went. The person basically kept walking, never stopping for a moment to fidget with zips or find items.

Following that lead, I then threw my bag right down onto a tray and kept walking as well. The new body scanners were also in use, and without alarming it (always pick a good airport outfit), I basically just kept walking.

With at least 10 people standing in front of me, I still made it through security in under 2 minutes. I actually had to sit down and reflect on the experience immediately after, just to confirm to myself what all just happened.

Wins For Everyone

The TSA placed a $198 million dollar order for these machines in September, and it sounds like they’re starting to make their way into the wild. In the UK, I believe the trial is still ongoing, but they were incredible to use today.

If these machines allow everyone to benefit from these efficiencies previously reserved for paying customers, it’ll mean that TSA PreCheck and CLEAR need to find new wins for customers, to create better segmentation and value.

Whether that happens, who knows, but if everyone is soon able to breeze through airport security by simply throwing a bag on a tray and walking on, the future could be very bright for all. These machines are the real deal.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. You mean the suppository-shaped machine stamped with the name Analogic? I laugh every time I fly out of ATL and see these silly-named/shaped machines.

    Maybe they’re being used in a more efficient manner at LCY, but at ATL they significantly slow down the scanning process. Even when there’s very little traffic in the Clear/Precheck line, I will regularly be waiting 2+ minutes for my bag to make it through the machine. With a regular x-ray, the bag would be through in less than 20 seconds.

    1. I used to be the Program Manager at a major airline that worked to bring this to fruition with TSA back in 2017-2020. We did extensive time studies and even purchased and gifted these machines to TSA in order to better understand the technology in live environments. Checkpoint CTs, like Analogic’s (who BTW is a non-traditional security vendor as their bread and butter is medical technology) tend to not do too much for TSA PreCheck/Low Risk lanes because there’s not really much divesting (unpacking) before the device and similarly, not much recomposure (repacking) after. The conveyors do run a little slower than traditional X-Rays, but the idea behind it is to provide fewer false positives, and less backup waiting for people to remove items and pick them up.

      They also tend to work best with Automated Security Lanes (ASLs), or the thing where you put everything in a tub and push it from the loading zone onto the conveyor belt that runs parallel to it. In real-world testing we’ve seen these combinations double the hourly throughput compared to standard TSA lanes with traditional X-Ray when run with well trained teams.

      I’ve since moved away from Aviation Security, but there is a lot of technology in the pipeline that is trying to bring down the wait-times at security checkpoints while simultaneously maintaining or increasing the level of security that exists through automation and new technology. And while training the screeners is one thing, re-training the public on the new security processes (Leave everything in your bag including laptops; yes, your carry-on bag has to go into a tray; don’t push your tray into the machine) is another thing that slows the process down.

  2. None of the fake security theatre is “legit amazing”
    This is simply another machine bought through a corrupt crony contract for the purpose of enriching the vendor.
    I am normally through US security within a few minutes or less thanks to Clear and Precheck. No need for another expensive TSA toy.

  3. @Gilbert — Yeah, what @ hp12c said. The process with these at ATL is painfully slow. Not sure what the deal is what that, but I’ve used them a dozen times and the process is always slow at ATL. I think AMS has same/similar, and it seems much faster.

    1. I’d say it’s gotta be TSA training then. I rarely am in and out of ATL but will make a point to try. I remember them being slow in JFK circa 18′, but maybe these have an update or patch, or maybe security is better trained. This was lightning.

  4. But was the line crowded at LCY? I can imagine ATL would be a better stress-test for these machines. I agree that they need to come up with a better name for these machines because I got a chuckle when I saw the name and the shape of it.

    1. LCY was pretty crowded. Usual morning rush. Whoever was behind the machine was moving fast, I guess. I wanna see the process at ATL now! I’m always LAX, JFK, LAS, ORD or DCAA these days.

  5. We’ve had this type of machine in Geneva for a couple of years now. I decline fast track and head straight for these. Terrific.

  6. Last time I went through LCY a few months ago these were in use, but every bag with a laptop was being sent to secondary… Which completely defied their purpose! Hopefully that’s now been resolved!

  7. Except if you are travelling with light sensitive photographic materials which will be zapped and damaged. The older X-ray machines were fine and the whole process was quick and I never suffered any delays. Now I will have to ask for hand search for film and although this is not a problem in US in other countries that has not been the case.

  8. This article aged so poorly. These machines suck, and they have slowed even TSA pre-check so much that there is little benefit to pre-check anymore. And there have been no threats to drive the change. Another get-rich-quick scheme for defense contractors, brokered by lobbyists.

    1. I don’t think we can call it yet. The training curve sucks but ultimately I think they will lead to improvements. I have zero reason to take sides other than personal experience when dealing with screeners with appropriate training. I am not a defense contractor hah.

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