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Honolulu Airport to Introduce New TSA ID Technology

The Transportation Security Administration has deployed four next-generation Credential Authentication Technology devices at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport. They are able to quickly compare travelers’ facial features to their IDs.

(TNS) — The Transportation Security Administration has been investing in new technology to screen travelers and their personal property in the security checkpoints at Hawaii airports with the goal of enhancing security and improving screening efficiency, which comes in handy as the traditional summer rush of travelers begins.

TSA at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport now has four next-generation Credential Authentication Technology (CAT-2) units in the security checkpoints, which became operational in mid-May. In addition to comparing facial features of a traveler for identity verification purposes, the units are able to accept mobile driver's licenses, which are an option for drivers in Arizona, Maryland, Colorado, Utah and Georgia.

TSA spokesperson Lorie Dankers, who gave the Honolulu Star-Advertiser a tour of TSA's new technology Wednesday, said travelers can put away their boarding passes for CAT-2 and the earlier Credential Authentication Technology (CAT) machines that TSA already had been deploying in Hawaii.

She said during CAT a photo identification is scanned into a reader that is linked to a Secure Flight Database so it confirms the authenticity of a passenger's identification credentials, along with their flight details and pre-screening status (such as TSA PreCheck), all without a boarding pass. Dankers said CAT improves a TSA officer's ability to authenticate a guest's photo identification and makes it easier to spot inconsistencies associated with fraudulent travel documents.

She said the CAT-2, which is being tested at 25 airports across the nation including Honolulu, adds facial matching capabilities to verify the identify and flight information of travelers.

"It's controversial because some people don't like facial matching technologies," Dankers said. "TSA is testing this technology and we continue to evaluate it. But we want people to know ... that the images are never stored. There is no database of people who are coming to travel today."

While the Honolulu airport is one of the places where TSA is conducting biometric operational assessments, participation in these assessments is entirely voluntary, she said.

In addition, TSA also is working on improving how it screens travelers' carry-on luggage in the airport security checkpoints across Hawaii, Dankers said. TSA installed Computed Tomography X-ray scanners at five Hawaii airports during the pandemic. There is one unit each at the Honolulu airport; Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole, Hawaii island; and Hilo International Airport. There are two units at Kahului Airport and four at Lihue Airport.

Dankers said CT units give TSA officers the ability to review a 3D image of passengers' bags and reduce the need to physically search a bag's contents. Passengers screened in security lanes with CT units do not need to remove their TSA-compliant liquids or laptops, but they must place every carry-on item, including bags, into a bin for screening.

Dankers said the 3D screening process is sometimes slower, but more accurate as it allows TSA officers to manipulate images for higher accuracy, thereby eliminating some of the delays that can occur in security lines when travelers are flagged for additional screening. Indeed, every flagged bag in the CT line on Wednesday during the Star-Advertiser's tour contained a prohibited object.

Dankers said most people at the airport don't have a bag checked; however, she said the count is likely higher at the Honolulu airport "because there are so many tourists, and they bring things that they were using while on vacation."

While some passengers at the Honolulu airport forgot to remove sunscreen, most of the bags that had to go through a manual screening contained baby food, formula or breast milk.

"Do people love this process? No. Is the process necessary? Yes," she said. "I do think that every single one of those could have been avoided if they had removed their medically necessary liquids."

While medically necessary liquids are authorized, Dankers said passengers should inform the TSA officer that they have medically necessary liquids or medications and separate them from other belongings before screening begins.

Since the baby-related medically necessary fluids were not declared by some of the Wednesday travelers, the Star-Advertiser saw they had to undergo additional screening, including pat-downs, as well as explosive detection screening.

TSA officers at the Honolulu airport were using specially programmed Explosive Trace Detection units, which can detect even the smallest amount of explosive residue. TSA also uses bottle liquid scanners to scan medically necessary liquids when they are in quantities of more than 100 milliliters.

For information on the screening of medically necessary liquids, visit and click the link for "Special Procedures" on the right of the page.

The TSA also uses passenger screening canines, which have been used for a while at the Honolulu airport and were added to the Maui airport in September. There are more than 200 passenger screening canine teams deployed by TSA nationwide.

The dogs, which go through intensive training at Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio and in the airports where they are deployed, are able to conduct real-time threat assessments of travelers going through a security checkpoint. If a dog alerts its handler to the presence of an explosive odor, TSA said it follows an established procedure to resolve the alarm.

Through summer and beyond, TSA is continuing to modernize airport checkpoints, enhance security effectiveness and efficiency and improve the passenger experience by deploying new technological solutions and streamlining procedures nationwide and in Hawaii.

TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a statement just before Memorial Day, the start of the summer rush, " TSA is ready to handle this summer's anticipated increase in travel."

Pekoske said TSA is heading into summer with better staffing levels, largely due to a pay increase starting July 1 that he said will enable TSA for the first time to pay its workforce using the same scale that applies to other federal employees.

TSA also has made changes for families that use TSA PreCheck. Enrolled parents or guardians may now add their teenagers age 13-17 to accompany them through the TSA PreCheck lanes when traveling on the same reservation. As with younger children, who have always been able to accompany parents or guardians, the TSA PreCheck needs to be on the teen's boarding pass.

TSA said TSA PreCheck is a tool that allows eligible travelers to shorten wait times, and estimates that 89% of TSA PreCheck-eligible travelers waited five minutes or less to be screened through the security checkpoint during April. TSA PreCheck enrollment is offered at two locations in Honolulu, in Wailuku on Maui, in Kapaa on Kauai and in Hilo. To begin the process, visit

But passengers still have a large role to play in keeping screening times efficient, starting with being prepared to travel and listening for guidance from TSA officers, especially about the requirements for the new technology, officials said.

"Passengers can help as well by being prepared, by having their identification ready when they begin screening and checking to make sure they aren't bringing firearms, oversized liquids or any other prohibited item into the checkpoint. One person's actions can delay screening for everyone else," Pekoske said.

Travelers with questions can get live assistance from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. Eastern Time via Twitter or Facebook by messaging @AskTSA or by sending a text to 272872 ("AskTSA").

For customer service issues, travelers can reach the TSA Contact Center at 866-289-9673. Live assistance for both the TCC and TSA Cares is available weekdays, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern Time, or weekends and holidays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Time.

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