New Airport Baggage System Faces Problems

New automated system minimizes need to question passengers and visually inspect their luggage; operations at the main terminal were halted twice last week due to malfunctions.

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Zohar Blumenkrantz

For the second time in a week operations were halted at the main terminal due to malfunctions.

Ben-Gurion International Airport has gotten more than it bargained for in a costly new luggage screening system.

The cost of the system has gone well over the initial $70 million budget, and problems with the system have been discovered in the process of getting it up and running.

For the second time in a week, operations were halted on Friday at the airport’s main international flight terminal, Terminal 3, while technicians scrambled to get the system working. The airport’s old terminal building, Terminal 1, was used to handle passengers while Terminal 3 was out of commission from noon to 7 P.M.

The new system is designed to minimize the need to question individual passengers and visually inspect their luggage. The profiling of passengers has resulted in some travelers, especially Arab passengers, being singled out for special scrutiny.

The new system features C.T. scanners that screen passengers’ luggage. If the initial screening arouses suspicions, it is diverted to another, more sensitive machine that provides more detailed information about the suitcase’s contents.

The system is automated and does not require the passengers’ presence.

The Israel Airports Authority told Haaretz that the security threats have changed since the project was undertaken and that it is natural for costs to increase when dealing with installation systems of this type. However, it added, the new system ultimately will save money on labor costs and time and will result in more equitable scrutiny of passengers’ luggage.

Ben-Gurion Airport. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum