Is it the end of airport security delays?

Ruth Doherty

New airport security measures could be spell the end of delay-inducing procedures like removing shoes and belts, and unpacking your laptop every time you go through check-in.

The changes will see airports relying more on technology to carry out the inspections that annoy millions of people every day.

The plans, which will be unveiled to MPs by Philip Hammond, the Transport Secretary, will encourage airports to invest in new screening devices to cut the time needed to get through to the departure lounge.

Currently major airports face financial penalties -in the form of rebates to airlines – if the time taken to get through security is too long.

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

The British Government has been lobbying the European Union to ease its insistence that every passenger must pass through a metal detector, believing that a new generation of body scanners can do the job as efficiently, if not more so.

Much of the technology is being developed, for example shoe-scanners are already in use at Brussels.

Earlier this year the International Air Transport Association, the body representing more than 300 major airlines, unveiled its vision of how security would work in the future at its annual conference in Singapore.

The proposals to streamline security will be unveiled by the Government at the same time as it publishes proposals to improve airport efficiency, drawn up by the South East Airports Taskforce, a body representing the industry and senior DfT officials shortly after the election.

Having ruled out building a third runway at Heathrow, the new Government set up the group, to make airports 'better not bigger'.

Immigration will be streamlined with greater co-operation between airports and the UK Border Agency, aimed at cutting the delays faced by passengers getting in the country.

'Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports play a vital role in supporting the UK economy. Improving the reliability of these airports, particularly Heathrow, was a priority for the Taskforce,' Ms Villiers said.

Jim McAuslan, general secretary of the British Airline Pilots' Association, welcomed the reforms.

'Pilots are part of the solution to airline security, not part of the problem,' he said. 'It is frankly bizarre that the professionals responsible for safely flying hundreds of passengers every day are currently treated with the same degree of suspicion as high-risk passengers.

'Airport security is important, there's no doubt about that. But this blanket, one-size-fits-all approach is too simplistic and is infuriating to passengers and crew alike.

'Pilots are routinely held up at security and, like passengers, have their water and other items confiscated. Given the responsibility they are entrusted with that is clearly ridiculous.'

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