Information about the introduction of security scanners at UK airports.
In response to the attempted attack on Northwest airlines flight 253 to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, the government conducted an immediate review of aviation security measures. The findings of this review were announced on 5 January 2010. The announcement outlined a package of additional measures to enhance aviation security. These measures included:
- an increase in the use of explosive trace detection
- plans for greater random searching of passengers
- the introduction of security scanners also known as body scanners or Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT)
On 1 February 2010 the deployment of security scanners at Heathrow and Manchester Airports, with a further roll-out of scanners nationally during the following months was announced. An interim code of practice was published at the same time which ensured that the operation of security scanners would be mindful of privacy, health and safety, data protection and equality issues. The interim code of practice was subject to a public consultation, the outcome of which was announced on 21 November 2011, alongside a final code of practice.
Furthermore, when security scanners were originally introduced in 2010, the Department for Transport (DfT) decided no alternative screening method would be offered to passengers selected to be screened by a security scanner: the so-called ‘no scan, no fly’ policy. This decision was made on operational and security grounds.
However, operational experience of security scanners showed low refusal rates from passengers. This means that offering an alternative screening method, previously considered a disproportionate burden on airports, was considered viable.
In November 2013 it was announced that the deployment of security scanners would be extended to another 11 airports, and that the alternative screening method to a security scanner would be at least an enhanced hand search in private. The DfT considers that this alternative offers comparative security assurance to passengers as being screened by a security scanner.
The code of practice and security scanner directions
The code of practice requires airports to undertake scanning sensitively, having regard to the rights of passengers. It states that passengers will not be selected to be scanned on, for example, the basis of ethnic origin, gender, or destination of travel.
There are further requirements that the airport operators must follow in the public annexes of the security scanner directions that protect the privacy of passengers. All the security scanner directions are available.
Health and safety
There are currently 2 types of security scanner commercially available, using either millimetre wave or backscatter X-ray technology. Independent testing has shown that millimetre wave technology does not pose any known health risks. Airports in the UK are currently only permitted to use millimetre wave technology.