TSA testing self-screening to speed up airport wait times: How it works

TSA is testing a big step toward the future of airport security screenings: Starting next month, the agency is introducing self-service kiosks at Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas.

According to a release from TSA, Screening at Speed allows TSA PreCheck passengers to do their own security screening with "minimal to no assistance" from TSA officers.

"Like self-ordering kiosks at fast food and sit-down restaurants, self-service screening allows passengers in the Trusted Traveler Program to complete the security screening process on their own," Screening at Speed program manager John Fortune said in a statement. "The passenger self-service screening technology aims to keep travelers and TSOs safer by minimizing person to person contact, reducing the number of bags TSOs have to pick up and move around and allowing passengers to proceed at their own pace."


Future airport screening concept design from 2015. Photo credit: S&T.

How does TSA self-screening work?

Micro-X, one of three companies involved in the program, is creating a pod-based design for passengers to use individual screening consoles. Each will include a compact carry-on screening system and a flat panel passenger screening capability.

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The system provides feedback to the passenger if additional screening is needed.


Pod-Based self-service screening concept design. Photo credit: Monash University.

A separate mechanism will prompt passengers to make sure they hold the proper pose, empty pockets and confirm they were successfully screened.  

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The goal is not only reducing wait times for passengers, but also "reducing the number of pat downs and bag inspections," freeing up TSA agents for busier screening tasks.


Small-Size CT screening system concept in pod based self-service screener. Photo credit: Micro-X.

"The feedback we’ve already received during testing from both mock passengers and TSOs has been incredibly positive," TSA said in the release.

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The self-service screening pilot will only be available to TSA PreCheck passengers at the Las Vegas airport starting next month.


PAX M2 self-service screening concept design. Photo credit: Vanderlande.

Micro-X has already begun building the first self-service screening pod, which is scheduled to be more widely tested in 2025. TSA hopes to integrate multiple pods into one full screening lane to accommodate multiple travelers simultaneously.

Christmas travel forecast


Travelers in Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York, US, on Monday, Dec. 18, 2023. Photographer: Shelby Knowles/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Airlines are predicting a blockbuster holiday season.

Airlines for America says 39 million people — about 2.8 million a day on average — will board U.S. flights between Dec. 20 and Jan. 2. The trade group for big U.S. carriers expects about 3 million on the peak days - the Thursday and Friday before Christmas and the four days after the holiday.

MORE: Holiday crowds at airports and on the roads expected to be even bigger than last year

The number of travelers going through U.S. airport checkpoints is up 12.4% over last year and 1.4% higher than in 2019, according to the Transportation Security Administration. Travel around the Thanksgiving Day holiday topped 2019 numbers, peaking at 2.9 million — a single-day record for TSA — screened on Sunday, Nov. 26.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.