Efficiency, Speed Said to Prompt TSA Removal of Some X-Ray Body Scanners

Some of the TSA’s full body scanners – machines that use backscatter X-rays to screen airport travelers – have been removed from New York’s LaGuardia Airport and a spokesman for the agency tells FareCompare they’re in the process of removing them from JFK as well. The agency says this has nothing to do with health concerns and everything to do with efficiency.

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Wave Scanners to Be Used Instead

This does not mean New York passengers now get to bypass the imaging technology that has provoked so much criticism and cries “naked pictures” particularly in the early days, since another type of airport body scan utilizing millimeter wave technology will now be used exclusively in place of X-ray machines at all New York-area airports (for some reason, Newark has never used the X-rays).

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TSA: Speed is the Issue, Not Health

That there have been increased health concerns over the X-rays is undeniable – that’s what prompted the Europe Union to ban X-ray machines in its airports. Still, the TSA continues to maintain that X-ray machines which emit minute amounts of radiation and the millimeter wave machines which utilize radio waves are safe and the agency spokesperson further notes that the X-ray machines being taken from New York airports will be redeployed at other locations. The removal strategy, they say, is all about efficiency and creating speedier security lines at these busy airports.

Quicker Security Lines

“It is more efficient to operate one type of imaging technology at a given airport due to training, manufacturer services and vendor maintenance,” said the TSA spokesperson, adding that size alone is a factor in favor of the millimeter wave machines: “It has a smaller footprint at the checkpoint,” added the spokesperson. Just as important, it is expected to move travelers along at a brisker pace as it can process more passengers-per-hour than an X-ray machine – what the TSA refers to “increased throughput.”

A recent check of security line wait times at JFK showed several terminal queues with delays of 30 minutes or more and wait times of up to half an hour at LaGuardia.


Published: October 22, 2012