Will TSA's New Self-Screening Service Save You Time At The Airport?

The Transportation Security Administration is testing self-screening technology at the Harry Reid Airport in Las Vegas.

Long line of people with suitcases at the airport.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is taking a big step toward speeding up wait times for airport travelers

The agency, along with the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), plan to start testing a prototype self-service screening system in mid-March at the Las Vegas Harry Reid International Airport.

Before using the new technology, travelers will be shown a video with step-by-step instructions on how to complete the screening "at their own pace," TSA said. 

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"Once passengers have completed the required screening process and are cleared for travel, automated exit doors open so travelers can gather their belongings and head to their flights," TSA said. There will be minimal assistance from Transportation Security Officers but they will be available for assistance as needed, the agency added.

TSA said the self-service technology, originally tested in a laboratory setting at a TSA systems integration facility, will be "just as rigorous" as the current passenger-screening process using its PreCheck lanes. 

But, there's a catch.

According to the TSA, the prototype testing will only be available to TSA PreCheck users

PreCheck is aimed at expediting the check-in process by making risk assessments about travelers prior to their arrival at an airport checkpoint. It offers travelers shorter wait times for a fee and has emerged as a popular method of moving people through airports faster.

It's not clear whether the new screening technology will eventually expand to travelers who are not enrolled in TSA PreCheck.

The TSA did not immediately respond to Kiplinger's request for comment.

New technology for a new time

The new technology may come as good news to air travelers, especially as prices for domestic travel continue to fall and more people are flying both regularly and during holiday vacations. In the December 2023 holiday season, 7.5 million air travelers flew during the period between Christmas and New Year's. 

At the same time, the airline industry faces some challenges and suffered a major blow on January 5 when a a plug door on a Boeing plane detached during an Alaska Airlines flight.

According to a recent Associated Press (AP) report, U.S. adults may have some doubts about aircraft maintenance after that incident, but they think air travel is safe in general. The report, based on a poll of 1,152 adults by the AP and the nonprofit NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, was conducted after the Boeing incident.

"The public has misgivings about airplane maintenance and structural faults, but they are more confident in pilots and air traffic controllers," according to the report.

As for the TSA's self-service technology, the agency said it will review the results of the Las Vegas airport and consider applying parts of the prototype at other airport security checkpoints.

“The number of airline passengers continues to increase year-over-year, creating a need for innovative screening solutions that enhance transportation security and make traveling more efficient,” said Dimitri Kusnezov, the DHS under secretary for S&T.  “At S&T, we are pushing the envelope with new technologies and concepts toward designing the airport of the future. Self-paced screening is one step toward building that future.”

The self-service screening system is a result of S&T's Screening at Speed Program, which works on next generation technology systems. To learn more about this research, visit the organization's website.


Jamie Feldman

Jamie Feldman is a journalist, essayist and content creator. After building a byline as a lifestyle editor for HuffPost, her articles and editorials have since appeared in Cosmopolitan, Betches, Nylon, Bustle, Parade, and Well+Good. Her journey out of credit card debt, which she chronicles on TikTok, has amassed a loyal social media following. Her story has been featured in Fortune, Business Insider and on The Today Show, NBC Nightly News, CBS News, and NPR. She is currently producing a podcast on the same topic and living in Brooklyn, New York.