How The TSA Is Using Technology To Cut Wait Times

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

Cutting wait times

This weekend will be a hectic 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. Security wait times at airports are likely to increase, but the TSA has introduced new technology to reduce wait times.


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

The Transportation Security Administration has introduced Credential Authentication Technology scanners at airports throughout the US. These CAT scanners will speed up the security process by eliminating the need to show TSA agents boarding passes. The scanners can match a traveler’s identification with their flight information.

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

As of May 10, the TSA had deployed over 1,600 scanners to 176 US airports and has continued to deploy the new technology. Ninety of these scanners have the full capability of reading and verifying IDs. The TSA plans to roll out this technology nationwide, not just at larger airports, to simplify the security process for passengers and security personnel. Recently, the TSA added the CAT scanners in Wyoming at the Jackson Hole Airport. Larger airports like Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), and Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson (ATL) are also using the new technology.

How the CAT scanners work

The CAT scanners are connected to the Secure Flight Database, which stores information on travelers and their flight details for travel occurring within 24 hours. As passengers approach the TSA officer for a document check, they will either insert their ID into the CAT scanner or hand it to the TSA officer. The scanner will locate the flight details of the traveler, eliminating the need for presenting a boarding pass. In addition to locating flight information, the new scanners can identify fraudulent documents.

The TSA aims to reduce wait times with its new technology roll-outs. Photograph provided courtesy of Denver International Airport

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

Additional upgrades

Have you ever been stopped by the TSA for unidentified objects in your bag? Along with the CAT scanners, the TSA has been rolling out enhanced Computed Tomography (CT) scanners, which 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 certain US states have also begun accepting digital forms of ID. The mobile ID partnership officially commenced in Arizona at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Passengers can add their ID to the Wallet app on iPhones and take a selfie to verify their identity before going through a TSA checkpoint. At the airport, passengers can tap their phones to the CAT scanners for ID verification.

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

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