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Austin airport's TSA checkpoints could be getting a lot faster

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport's main terminal on July 27, 2021.
Gabriel C. Pérez
Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is getting some tech upgrades to its security system that should allow people to get through lines quicker.

By the end of the summer, you won’t have to take your laptop or liquids out of your bag when flying out of Austin’s airport.

Austin-Bergstrom International is getting upgrades to its security system: introducing new tech, updating existing tech, adding more security lanes and hiring more TSA agents to speed up checkpoints.

The airport is updating the system that X-rays bags so travelers won’t have to remove electronics or liquids. Five passengers will be able to put their luggage into the machine at once.

The airport said it will start making changes to the system as soon as the end of the month; it’ll wrap up those changes by September.

TSA Administrator David Pekoske said the new X-ray system is just one of many improvements ABIA is making to speed up security lines.

“The X-ray technology is significantly better at detecting the things that we need to detect in a carry-on bag,” Pekoske said. “It takes a little longer to capture the image, but the savings is in having to take fewer things out and having to do fewer bag searches at the end.”

Pekoske said the airport will switch the technology out one lane at a time through the summer and add two more TSA lanes by September. That will bring the total number of security check lanes from 17 to 19.

By 2024, he said, the airport will also introduce a biometric identification system that takes a picture of you and compares it to the ID you provide to a TSA agent.

TSA is also addressing ongoing issues around staffing, Pekoske said. At the end of last year, President Biden signed an appropriations bill that increased pay for TSA agents by 30%.

Pekoske said more job applications started to come in after the bill was signed.

“We're under 10% below where we desire to be from a staffing perspective,” he said. “That's pretty good, all things considered. And given that we have robust pools of candidates that want to join the agency, we feel pretty positive about where we're going to be this summer.”

Pekoske said the new hires need to go through training to operate the checkpoints, so they won’t be ready to work until the end of the summer.

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Haya Panjwani is a general assignment reporter, with a focus on Travis County. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @hayapanjw.
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