How the TSA is using technology to reduce wait times

The United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is introducing new technology at its security checkpoints to ensure a seamless workflow and journey for travelers. TSA is rolling out Credential Authentication Technology (CAT) scanners that will eliminate the need for passengers to show TSA agents their boarding passes.

Reducing waiting time

This weekend will be a busy travel weekend in the United States, as the US will be celebrating its Independence Day (known as the Fourth of July) on Monday and summer vacations are in full swing. Airport security wait times are likely to increase, but the TSA has introduced new technology to reduce wait times.


Below is a video of TSA Administrator David Pekoske talking about preparing for the busy holiday weekend.

The Transportation Security Administration has introduced credential authentication technology scanners at US airports. These CAT scanners will speed up the security process by eliminating the need to show boarding passes to TSA agents. The scanners can match the passenger’s identification with their flight information.

While this may not seem like a significant time saver, the seconds add up when lines are long. Let’s say a queue of 100 people saves an average of 10 seconds per person. The 101st person in line will wait 16 minutes less because of the new scanners. Sixteen minutes is a long time waiting at an airport and can be the difference between a passenger getting on or not getting on a flight.

As of May 10, the TSA had deployed more than 1,600 scanners at 176 U.S. airports and continued to roll out the new technology. Ninety of these scanners have the full capability to read and verify identity. TSA plans to roll out this technology nationwide, not just at larger airports, to simplify the security process for passengers and security personnel. The TSA recently added CAT scanners in Wyoming at Jackson Hole Airport. Larger airports such as Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson (ATL) are also using the new technology.

How CAT scanners work

The CAT scanners are connected to the Secure Flight Database, which stores passenger information and their flight details for travel within 24 hours. As passengers approach the TSA officer for document verification, they will either insert their ID into the CAT scanner or hand it over to the TSA officer. The scanner will detect the passenger’s flight details, eliminating the need to present a boarding pass. In addition to locating flight information, the new scanners can identify counterfeit documents.

The TSA aims to reduce wait times with its new technology. Photo courtesy of Denver International Airport

The scanner accepts multiple forms of ID, such as driver’s licenses, passports, permanent resident cards, and more. A complete list of acceptable identification can be found on the TSA website. It is important to note that CAT scanners only eliminate the need for a boarding pass at TSA checkpoints, but not at the boarding gate.

Additional upgrades

Have you ever been stopped by the TSA for unidentified items in your bag? Along with CAT scanners, TSA is rolling out enhanced computed tomography (CT) scanners that improve the scanning process for items taken through TSA checkpoints. The new scanners can render a 3D image of the scanned objects, reducing the need for secondary inspection at checkpoints.

Airports in some US states have also begun accepting digital forms of ID. The Mobile Identification Partnership officially launched in Arizona at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Passengers can add their ID to the Wallet app on iPhone and take a selfie to verify their identity before going through a TSA checkpoint. At the airport, passengers can touch their phones to the CAT scanners for ID verification.

Are you traveling this weekend? If so, where? Have you traveled recently? How long was the wait time for security? Let us know in the comments below.

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