Britain is looking to ease its airport immigration procedures as the Olympics loom. It plans to make processing easier for visitors from outside Europe who are deemed “low-risk” and do not normally need visas – people like Australians.
Many visitors from New Zealand, US, Canada and Japan fall into the same category. Airports in other countries are also striving to make passage faster and easier – while preserving security.
The UK Border Agency has begun trying separate immigration lanes for visitors who don’t need visas, after passengers were forced to wait more than two hours to get through London Heathrow, Britain’s Daily Telegraph reports.
The time it takes to get through border checks at Heathrow is drawing increased criticism. Heathrow’s target is to move 95% of European passengers through passport checks within 25 minutes and non-Europeans in 45 minutes.
As Britain’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper put it: “When the eyes of the world are on London and everyone has been working so hard to show the world the best of British, the first impression many visitors will get is to stand for hours in a queue.”
Authorities in the US, meanwhile, are on the same track – seeking faster ways of weeding out passengers who pose a threat and separating them from those who don’t.
At Dallas Love Field airport, high-definition cameras are being installed as a first step in creating a security apparatus that can scrutinise passengers more thoroughly but less intrusively and faster – a target the International Air Transport Association (IATA) calls “the checkpoint of the future”.
The US concept sees domestic passengers identifying themselves not with driver licenses or boarding passes, but by scanning fingerprints or irises to prove they have an electronic ticket. Such biometric ID verification is virtually infallible.
Examining the options, a recent article in USA Today said passengers would walk with their carry-ons through a screening tunnel to undergo electronic scrutiny for metal objects, non-metallic items and explosives.
Passengers would no longer face the hassle of putting liquids and gels in plastic bags. They soon won’t have to do that at Australian airports either.
If screeners notice anything suspicious, a passenger would still be pulled aside and possibly patted down. But most passengers would reach their gates faster. The goal, USA Today says, is for the so-called riskiest or unknown passengers to face the toughest scrutiny, including questioning and more sensitive electronic screening. Those who voluntarily provide more information about themselves to the government would be rewarded with faster passage.
Written by : Peter Needham