How will airports handle Electronic Trace Detection of laptops to the USA?

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced their initial measure to counter the laptop threat: Electronic Trace Detection (ETD) of all laptops going to the USA from all international destinations.


So, continuing from our previous blog post, how will airlines and airports tackle this demand operationally?


We see three options:

Option 1: Performing ETD at the security checkpoint for US-bound passengers

Option 2: Performing ETD on all laptops at the security checkpoint

Option 3: Performing ETD at the gate for US flights


The first option quickly falls apart for two apparent reasons. First, a passenger could buy a non-US ticket and pass through Security on that ticket while boarding a US flight. Secondly, have a laptop handed over in the secure area from another passenger.


Performing ETD on all laptops at the security checkpoint will be an operational nightmare and will not be feasible. It would require significant investments in added equipment and added staff with the right certification. So that leaves Option 3.


Performing ETD at gate operationally requires two primary functions:


  • Full security screening of all passengers
  • Closed holdrooms


The full security screening is required to determine if a passenger is carrying a laptop. The laptop must then subsequently go through ETD.


The closed holdrooms are required to make sure passengers do not mix after they have been screened for having a laptop.


These functions will severely challenge most airports as the infrastructure to perform these functions are not in place. Even with significant investments, we are skeptical towards an actual implementation of the DHS requirements.


We will surely watch this development – stay tuned.



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AUTHOR: Kasper Hounsgaard
Kasper has a M.Sc. in Economics and has for years been a main driver in business development in Maersk, CPH Airport and Copenhagen Optimization. Kasper is a natural in identifying new areas of interest and has extensive experience in developing and implementing solutions with proven results. With responsibility for Consultancy and Business Development, Kasper excels in quickly understanding your challenges and adapting our ideas and experience to identify ways of overcoming the challenges.
  • Avatar
    Pradeep Vipparthy

    Not sure the feasibility of the below option:

    1. While at security check, scanning machine will assign a unique ID to bag which may have laoptop (based on dimension, heat map etc…) the scanner will also pick other items in the bag to tag the contents / dimensions with the unique ID.

    2. Have a remote scanning camera at departure gates of flights departing to US.

    3. If the uniques ID matches, a manual intervention can be placed to check the contents/ hold the pax from boarding.

    July 1, 2017
  • Avatar
    Jurgen Boerboom

    Closed hold area’s at the gate…Great !. Amsterdam Schiphol has just finished a major overhaul removing all the closed area’s and move security scans from gates to Airport entry. This all for efficiency.

    Maybe we should ask the USA to implement reliable ETD for flight to Europa first…See how they will deal with it on their airports.

    July 7, 2017

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