Security in 12 Seconds? A New TSA PreCheck Screening Upgrade Will Get You Through Faster Than Ever

A new program called Screening at Speed will allow TSA PreCheck members to screen their own carry-on bags with little to no assistance from TSA officers and promises to make the security process much faster.

Black-and-white illustration of luggage on a conveyer belt going through an x-ray device

With new technology, TSA PreCheck members will effectively be able to screen themselves.

Illustration by Shutterstock

TSA PreCheck, an expedited security program for trusted travelers, has long been an attractive option for fliers who want to get to their gate faster and easier. However, starting next year, having the program’s logo on your boarding pass could net you an additional perk: the ability to breeze through entirely self-service TSA security lines.

Recently, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it will be rolling out self-service screening systems, starting at Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada, in January 2024, for TSA PreCheck passengers to “complete the screening process with minimal to no assistance from transportation security officers.”

The new tech-driven solution, called Screening at Speed, comes at a time when the number of air travelers is beginning to exceed prepandemic levels, according to the science and technology arm of DHS. It is working to enhance security screening processes in light of the rising number of airport passengers without putting too much strain on TSA staffing resources.

Screening at Speed builds on the launch of TSA’s self-service facial recognition technology, which was introduced at select airports this past summer and eliminates the need for TSA agents to check IDs and boarding passes. Like the facial recognition program, Screening at Speed allows fliers to scan their own ID, after which a photo is taken of the passenger and biometric technology is used to confirm their identity and their flight details.

A rendering of a self-service security screening system developed by the company Vanderlande

A prototype developed by the company Vanderlande will be installed at Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas in January 2024.

Courtesy of Vanderlande

For now, Screening at Speed will only be available to TSA PreCheck passengers, who will be able to screen their own carry-on luggage by placing it in an inspection pod. If there are no issues with their bag (say, no bottle of wine or another item TSA won’t allow them to bring onboard), they’ll be able to collect their bags and continue onward. Only if there’s a problem, a TSA agent would step in to address it, as they normally would. Agents will also be available to answer questions about how the process works.

“Like self-ordering kiosks at fast-food and sit-down restaurants, self-service screening allows passengers in the Trusted Traveler Program to complete the security screening process on their own,” John Fortune, manager of the Screening at Speed program, said in a press release. “Travelers will use passenger and carry-on screening systems at individual consoles or screening lanes themselves, reducing the number of pat downs and bag inspections transportation security officers need to perform and freeing their time to be reallocated to the busier aspects of screening operations. The feedback we’ve already received during testing . . . has been incredibly positive.”

Screening at Speed estimates that it will ultimately be able to process 300 people per hour per lane—or 12 seconds per person—which DHS says will help streamline security and improve the passenger experience.

Three companies have been working to develop self-screening prototypes for the Screening at Speed program: Micro-X, Voxel Radar, and Vanderlande. Vanderlande’s prototype, which combines all of the screening elements into a single checkpoint lane, was tested at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, D.C. earlier this year, and it will be the system installed at Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas next month. Harry Reid International Airport routinely sees some of the newest aviation advancements. In 2019, it was where TSA unveiled its Innovation Checkpoint on the Zero Level of Terminal 3—an area dedicated to testing potential aviation security upgrades.

“The Innovation Checkpoint . . . is an exciting initiative that provides TSA with the unique opportunity to demonstrate multiple solutions and capabilities by various vendors in one physical environment without interrupting current airport operations,” Austin Gould, TSA assistant administrator for requirements and capabilities analysis, said at the time of the Innovation Checkpoint launch.

Other programs that have come out of Innovation Checkpoint include the self-service facial recognition technology and a UV-C light sanitizing system that disinfects bins between uses.

Screening at Speed is the latest in a series of new measures that TSA and DHS have adopted to improve the speed and efficiency of airport security screenings. TSA has also been working to eliminate the need for travelers to present their boarding pass at airports throughout the country where new Credential Authentication Technology (CAT) allows TSA officers to confirm travelers’ flight details simply by scanning their ID. Additionally, new Computed Tomography (CT) x-ray machines are being installed at numerous U.S. airports, allowing passengers to keep liquids and laptops in their luggage.

Bailey Berg is a freelance travel writer and editor, who covers breaking news, trends, tips, transportation, sustainability, the outdoors, and more. She was formerly the associate travel news editor at Afar. Her work can also be found in the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Geographic, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, the Points Guy, Atlas Obscura, Vice, Thrillist, Men’s Journal, Architectural Digest, Forbes, Lonely Planet, and beyond.
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