This Is Why Airport Security Just Got Much Slower

TSA's new 3-D scanners offer up better security measures and some benefits to travelers, but they're not helping you get to your gate faster

Carry on bags are seen entering the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) new 3-D scanner at the Miami International Airport. new versions of these machines are slowing down security lines at some airports.
Carry on bags are seen entering the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) new 3-D scanner at the Miami International Airport
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

New baggage scanners being installed by the Transportation Security Administration offer up several advantages for passengers, but speeding through airport security isn’t one of them.

As reported by the travel site The Points Guy, these new tomography checkpoint scanners (CT) provide 3-D imaging of bags and can mean that those without TSA PreCheck might not have to remove laptops or liquids from their bags. The downside, however, is that these machines are apparently very, very slow.

As passenger Joelle Erickson noted in the article, a recent security line took an estimated 10 minutes to screen 10 people. “The people in front of me were trying to contact their family further back in line to warn them of how slow the machine was,” she wrote. The machines are being utilized in both regular and TSA PreCheck lines.

As TSA notes, the CT devices apply sophisticated algorithms for the detection of explosives by creating a 3-D image that can be viewed and rotated 360 degrees on three axes. Besides improving security, the agency says that the new devices will allow passengers to keep more stuff in their luggage and cut down on bag checks. “It’s much like the CT scan machines you see at the hospital,” TSA southeast spokesperson Mark Howell told TPG earlier this year. “And the difference in security is really [like] the difference between a map and a globe.”

While there are no hard facts on how the 1,000 or so new machines — which are rolling out slowly to different airports — are affecting wait times, the TSA has acknowledged some growing pains.

“As with any new technology, there is a learning curve for officers; as their proficiency increases, there is an expectation throughput will meet and exceed existing AT systems,” a spokesperson said in an email to The Points Guy.

Slower security lines (albeit safer ones) arrive at a time when travel is seemingly getting back to pre-pandemic levels and summer is approaching. Definitely allow for extra time during your travels, and as the TSA and this writer suggest, apply for TSA PreCheck.


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