Security Scanner

Legal Authority

Airport Operators are required to operate security scanners pursuant to directions made by the Secretary of State for Transport under the Aviation Security Act 1982.

What is a Security Scanner?

Southampton Airport has introduced a Security Scanner following a Government review of aviation security measures, to ensure we are taking the most effective action against emerging threats to aviation security. Security Scanners provide an additional, less intrusive method of screening passengers.

Security Scanners were previously known as Body Scanners and legacy models generated an actual image of the individual being scanned which lead to a lot of negative publicity regarding a person’s privacy. This original technology is no longer in use and your privacy is totally protected.

Privacy

For the benefit of all passengers' security, passengers may be required to be screened using security scanner equipment. Assessment of the scan data will be conducted by a computer algorithm. No images of individuals are created, and no scan data will be saved. Security staff are not able to view images produced by the scanner.

The scan will use Automatic Threat Recognition software which interprets the scan data, instead of creating an image, and identifies areas where items may be concealed on the body. These areas are flagged on a standardised stick-figure on a screen, to indicate to the security officer areas of the body which should receive a targeted hand-search.

Is it safe?

All security scanners must use millimetre wave technology, as it poses no known health and safety risks. Millimetre wave scanners utilise a very low power, non-ionising form of electromagnetic technology. Non-ionising radiation refers to electromagnetic waves which do not alter atoms in molecules by removing electrons. The amount of electromagnetic radiation emitted by millimetre wave security scanners is many times lower than that emitted by a mobile phone. Find out more about security scanners

Data Protection

Analysis will be conducted by approved Automatic Threat Recognition algorithms. Immediately after the scanning analysis is completed and the passenger moves away from the security scanner, all data relating to the individual will be destroyed, irretrievable and incapable of being copied or sent.

Our Security Scanner Process

In our opinion, Southampton Airport has chosen to use the most passenger friendly security scanner available. When you step into our spacious scanner we will ask you to adopt a natural pose which does not require you to raise your arms above your head. The scan itself takes just a fraction of a second and you will then be invited to step out. The results of the scan are provided very quickly. You will then be allowed to proceed or we may need to check any areas that the scanner has highlighted. On some occasions this may require that a standard physical search is conducted.

Alternatives

An individual may opt out of being scanned. In this instance, the individual must be screened by an alternative method which includes, at least, an enhanced hand search in private. An enhanced hand search in private will take place in a private room or an area away from the main search area. This may involve the loosening or removal of clothing. Opting out of a scan and refusing to undergo an enhanced hand search in private may result in that individual not being permitted to continue their journey.

Further Information

Further details on the deployment of security scanners in the UK, and the safeguards in place, including the Code of Practice for the use of security scanners. 

FAQs

Why are security scanners installed at airports? They have been introduced following a Government review of aviation security measures, to ensure we are taking the most effective action against emerging threats to security. They provide an additional, less intrusive method of screening passengers.

What legislation allows security scanners to be used? Security scanners are a recognised screening method under European aviation security law. It's a Department for Transport (DfT) directive that we use these scanners (under the Aviation Security Act 1982).

How do you decide who has to pass through the security scanner? Our security officers select passengers at random, or when there is a particular security concern (such as the activation of a metal detector).

If I'm asked to pass through the security scanner, can I choose to be screened by an alternative method? The Department for Transport considers that there are no known health effects from the scanners in use at Southampton Airport. The only alternative that can be offered to a scanner is a private search which allows for a more extensive hand-search than usual. Passengers will be escorted to a different location in the airport from the main search area (eg a private search room). The private search may involve the loosening and/or removal of clothing. A person undergoing a private search may ask to be accompanied by a witness. This alternative screening method will take significantly more time than passing through a security scanner.

Do you use backscatter-type scanners? No, we only operate millimetre-wave based scanners.

Do children have to be security-scanned? Yes. The Government directive authorising the use of security scanners by airports does not exempt children because this would undermine the effectiveness of these new security measures. We appreciate that children may find the security process frightening but our security teams are here to help put all of our passengers at ease.

Do I need to be security-scanned if I am pregnant, have a pacemaker or surgical implant or I am undergoing medical treatment? The Department for Transport considers that there are no known health effects from the scanners in use at Southampton Airport. The only alternative that can be offered to a scanner is a private search which allows for a more extensive hand-search than usual. Passengers will be escorted to a different location in the airport from the main search area (eg a private search room). The private search may involve the loosening and/or removal of clothing. A person undergoing a private search may ask to be accompanied by a witness. For more details on health and safety concerns read more information supplied by the Medical Health Care Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Can I view the image that is produced of me by the security scanner?
Yes. Our scanners are fitted with Automatic Threat Recognition (ATR) software. The image produced is a generic stick-like figure, with marks showing where the scanner has detected items to investigate further. You can see this image as you exit the scanner. No images are saved or retrievable at a later date.

Where can I find out more?
The Department for Transport has published information about security scanners at UK airports, including the code of practice, on its website at www.dft.gov.uk.