There is not really a single appealing thing about air travel, but going through security has to be right up there in the top three Shittiest Things about flying. Thankfully, London’s Heathrow Airport is actually being proactive about making that whole experience suck a hell of a lot less.
You know the drill by now: shoes off, belts off, jackets off, liquids out, electronics larger than a laptop out, but also probably anything with a battery just to be on the safe side. Heathrow, though, is cutting out the last two steps of that process with new scanning technology, the airport said in a statement (via Business Insider):
Heathrow has announced the rollout of new computed tomography (CT) security equipment throughout the airport over the next few years. When fully deployed, the 3D equipment could end the need for passengers to remove their liquids and laptops from cabin baggage when passing through security.
With the support of the Department for Transport, Heathrow is beginning a programme to install the new equipment across its terminals by 2022. Once complete, the technology will have the potential to cut the amount of time required for security screening and could significantly reduce the amount of plastic used at the airport, with passengers no longer required to put their liquids in plastic bags before being screened.
By investing more than £50 million ($63 million) in tech, Heathrow will now be able to better see inside closed bags, so you won’t have to dig out all your crap every time you need to go through security.
I travel painfully often. I live in Pennsylvania, my husband lives in Ontario, my family lives in Texas, and my love of speedy cars means I end up roaming somewhere across the country to watch them go in circles. I try to stick to packing what I can carry on, which also generally means shoving things into my various bags until they resemble overstuffed sausages threatening to burst at the seams with one too-pointed touch. I’ve become adept at quickly fishing toiletries, laptops, and cameras out of my various bags while standing in line—but it usually ends up being a stressful, sweaty affair.
And that’s not even considering how families must feel wrangling tiny children with hundreds of impatient travelers behind them, first-time flyers who just have no idea what they’re doing, or differently abled people who just need a little extra time getting organized. Not having to unpack and repack your bags to get through security is going to be awesome.
The upgraded scanners feature the same tech you’d find in a hospital’s CT scanner. If it can see through the human body, it can see through your bag. Airport computers will be able to detect explosives and dangerous liquids more effectively than the human eye, according to the TSA, though whether you trust them on it is up to you.
Heathrow plans on having the scanners in all five of its terminals by 2022—but you might stumble across one in your current travels, since the tech has been experimented with since 2017.
Other airports, like Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, and Washington-Dulles International Airport have also been experimenting with the new scanning tech. I’ve hit the jackpot a few times when traveling from these airports (is there any greater feeling than security telling you that you don’t have to disassemble your entire bag?), but it’s still not used across the board. Hopefully, we’ll be seeing it more frequently in the near future.
Or, you know, just take a train. Much easier that way.