Many passengers equate summer travel with queues at airport security. But this year, TSA is adding new technologies to speed up even the most congested checkpoints. One such device, known as a credential authentication technology (CAT) scanner, is programmed to automatically match the traveler’s ID information to flight records. In short, travelers at dozens of US airports are no longer required to show their boarding passes to TSA officers, eliminating another item that aviators must struggle to get through security.
The scanners can digitally process a traveler’s ID and match their biographical information, such as name and date of birth, against the Secure Flight database in real time. “A boarding pass is not required at this time because the Secure Flight database contains the names and flight details of people who will be traveling in the next 24 hours,” Lorie Dankers, a TSA spokeswoman, said in an email.
Instead, depending on the airport, the traveler either hands their ID to the TSA officer at the podium or puts it into the machine themselves. Many travelers may have already noticed the new ID process, as the agency says it has deployed 1,621 CAT scanners at 176 airports to date. Among them are 90 scanners “modified and equipped to read and verify digital IDs,” according to a TSA release.
Both major international airports and smaller regional facilities are using the new scanner equipment, including Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, Boston Logan International, Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles International Airport, Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway Airports, both airports in Washington, DC , and New York’s John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports, and dozens of others.
The machines can read driver’s licenses, passports and pass cards, trusted travel IDs like Global Entry cards, permanent residence cards, and more. The TSA has a full list of accepted IDs on their website.
The expansion of CAT machines comes as other private companies like Apple are also working on new innovations for airport security. The tech juggernaut recently launched a partnership with TSA, in which passengers at select airports can upload their government-issued IDs to the Apple Wallet app and swipe through the checkpoint with their iPhone or Apple Watch. To date, the program is available for TSA PreCheck passengers at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
American Airlines also began a TSA partnership this month, allowing its passengers with a frequent flyer account and TSA PreCheck to verify their identity at the airport using a mobile device. To use the program, passengers download the Airside Digital Identity app on an iOS or Android device, take a picture of their face, scan their driver’s license or passport, and enter their AAdvantage frequent flyer number. The app generates a QR code that users present to the TSA officer, and then they face a camera on the podium; TSA technology compares the airport photo to the app’s mobile ID information.
According to American Airlines, the entire process takes about five seconds. Images captured by the TSA are encrypted and deleted after verification. The mobile ID program is available on all PreCheck lines at Dallas-Forth Worth Airport, and there are plans to roll it out to Miami International Airport, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Washington Reagan National Airport, and possibly more later this year to expand.
“By simplifying the identity verification process and other points at the airport, we’re helping our customers trade stress for convenience and time savings, and continue to advance the travel industry toward a truly seamless customer experience,” Julie Rath, American’s VP of Customer Experience, Loyalty and Marketing said in a statement.
This summer, given the rush of travelers turning up at airports, even small changes seem to be able to make a big difference: TSA recently experienced its busiest day since the pandemic began on the June 16 bank holiday weekend, which saw an estimated 2.44 million People passed through security checkpoints at US airports on Friday, April 17.