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The TSA Is Under Fire for This Major Change at Airports

A planned equipment upgrade could cause a major delay during your next trip.

Even though being able to jet off on a much-needed vacation is always an exciting prospect, the process of getting through the airport to your flight is usually not quite as enticing. From long lines and potential delays to expensive food and looming health risks, most would probably prefer to limit their time in the terminal as is. But because of a recent update, your next trip might see even more pre-flight pain points. Read on to find out why the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is coming under fire from travelers for a major change it's instituting in airports.

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New luggage scanners are causing delays at security checkpoints in airports.

Woman putting her bag through airport security check

Thanks to everything from severe weather to staffing issues, delayed or canceled flights have become more common as the travel industry still struggles to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. But travelers are now reporting experiencing delays before they even reach their flights because of an update to the security screening process being rolled out at airports across the U.S. by the TSA, according to travel news outlet The Points Guy.

The latest issue is caused by the implementation of new computed tomography (CT) scanning machines that are now being used to check all carry-on luggage at checkpoints. According to the agency, the updated scanners should allow travelers to pass through security more quickly by allowing them to leave certain items in their bags. But unfortunately, the process appears to be turning what can already feel like a long and drawn-out process into an even slower experience.

"I think it took about ten minutes to screen ten people…If not longer," traveler Joelle Erickson wrote in a post to a Facebook group hosted by The Points Guy. "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."

The TSA says the machines should eventually make the security process easier.

white woman wearing mask at airport security
Shutterstock/Boyan Dimitrov

The new machines are part of a project launched by the TSA to update and modernize technology at security checkpoints across the U.S., The Points Guy reports. After initially spending $200 million on an order of new scanners in 2021, the agency announced in March that it had authorized a $781.2 million contract for nearly 1,000 machines that airports will likely install by this summer.

According to the TSA, the new machines allow agents to scan luggage without the typical hassle of removing certain items. "CT technology provides enhanced detection of threat items. Like existing CT technology used for checked baggage, the machines create such a clear picture of a bag's contents that computers can automatically detect explosives, including liquids," the agency explains on its website. "In the future, the goal is to keep laptops and 3-1-1 liquids inside of the bag during checkpoint screening. Under current screening procedures for this technology, laptops are allowed to remain inside the bag for screening."

Put more simply, the scanners will provide 3D imagery to security personnel and ideally cut down on the need for bag checks. "It's much like the CT scan machines you see at the hospital," TSA southeast spokesperson Mark Howell told The Points Guy earlier this year. "And the difference in security is really [like] the difference between a map and a globe."

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The TSA admits that training issues are causing security check delays at some airports.

airport security

Unfortunately, while officials hope the new technology will eventually smooth out and expedite the security screening process, the rollout is creating some issues for travelers as the current advanced technology (AT) machines are replaced. Staff from The Points Guy have reported delays at airports across the U.S., including San Diego International Airport, Denver International Airport, Charlotte Douglas International Airport, and Boston Logan Airport.

"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 for the TSA told The Points Guy in an email.

Here's how you can still get through airport security quickly and easily.

Airport security line at Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Because of the potential for delays, some experts warn that travelers should try to arrive at the airport a little earlier than usual as agents get used to the new process. Travelers can also opt for an expedited experience by signing up for TSA PreCheck, which allows passengers to use a dedicated lane, keep liquids and laptops in their bags, and leave their shoes on their feet during the screening process, Travel + Leisure reports.

But even though the new machines may be making some travelers frustrated, others still see the slow-down as a fair trade-off for simplifying the security process. "As a parent traveling with iPad, snacks, and wet wipes, I loved the new machine," traveler Matt Teichmann posted in The Point Guy Facebook group. "I'd rather it take a little longer and not have to do all that unpacking!"

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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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