a full body scanner used in the US by TSA

Malaysia will soon be rolling out full body scanners amidst growing passenger numbers. Source: Shutterstock

Malaysia upgrading airports to cope with growing passenger numbers

MALAYSIA airports are replacing manual body searches with X-ray machines and scanners.

By 2020, visitors Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) and low-cost carrier terminal KLIA2 will not be subjected to physical searches by airport security officers.

The scanners are one of the many improvements that Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB) have been working on to cope with the growing number of tourists.

According to a statement released by MAHB, both airports have welcomed 40 million passengers as of August this year. KLIA2 itself registered 21.3 million passengers, a 7.8 percent increase from the same period last year.

Passenger numbers are expected to continue growing. In the Airports Council International’s report, passenger traffic expansion in the Asia Pacific region is expected to represent almost 53 percent of global growth.

MAHB’s Chief Strategy Officer Azli Mohamed told Tech Wire Asia in an exclusive interview that the airport operator has been running several trials since last year, and have narrowed their focus to two technologies.

“We are at an advanced stage now,” Azli said. “Both technologies could reveal metallic and non-metallic objects, so any weapons or explosives that can be concealed under clothing can be revealed.”

KLIA first started trialing thermal scanners in the airport in 2016. According to a report by the New Straits Times, the airport was looking to adopt ThruVis, an imaging technology using terahertz cameras developed by British company Digital Barriers.

The government at the time were concerned about terror threats. Previously, they emphasized that manual pat-downs “will still be used as it is part of the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) standard operating procedure” even when using scanners “to ensure passenger safety”.

However, Azli clarified that the body scanners that will be rolled out starting early 2019 will be based on the millimeter wave technology, and is separate from the ThruVis trials reported earlier. MAHB is hoping to finish rollout by the end of 2020.

“We have always been conscious of implementing technology at various security checkpoints to ease the journey of passengers and to help us on an operational standpoint,” explained Azli.

Malaysia isn’t the only country in Asia adopting x-rays and millimeter wave scanners at the security checkpoints.

Earlier this year, China was reportedly rolling out 3D millimeter wave full-body scanners across airports in the country. Japan similarly has installed millimeter wave full-body scanners in Kansai, Narita, and Haneda airports in preparation for the 2020 Olympics.

According to reports from Japanese officials, the scanners proved efficient and did not affect passenger flow rates. Scans were recorded to be performed “in less than 20 seconds per passenger and, in some cases, just 10 seconds”.

Efforts to speed up processing time isn’t just limited to scanners. Earlier this year, Malaysia has installed self-baggage drop (SBD) facilities at 13 check-in counters, to allow airlines to process more passengers in less time.

Since implementation in March, MAHB has recorded an increase in processing speed by two and a half times compared to conventional check-in counters. Malaysia Airports is looking to install an additional 15 units by end of the year.

Additionally, the Ministry of Transport is also setting up a Malaysian Aviation Council in November to address further issues and policy matters in the country’s growing aviation industry.

It is hoped that the council, comprising of representatives from relevant government agencies and the aviation industry, will facilitate a more integrated approach towards development in the industry.

The council will be starting discussions on how to sustain airport infrastructure development without putting a financial strain on the government.