Flying into tomorrow: Security's impact

Friday, August 11, 2006

The thwarted terrorism plot that emerged on Thursday is an unpleasant reminder: Air travel will have to change to meet the ever-increasing demands of aviation security -- while keeping comfort-seeking passengers happy.

Here are five ways experts expect air travel to evolve.

Keep your carry-on: Don't assume overhead compartments will completely disappear. Actually, they might get bigger. The British government's ban on carry-on luggage in response to the terror threat is probably a short-term inconvenience, much like the post-Sept. 11 ban on sharp objects, such as scissors.

The information age: Working together, the U.S. government and airlines will collect more data on passengers than ever before through techniques like biometric technology (recognizing humans through such features as fingerprints and irises) and psychoanalysis (a way to detect abnormal human behavior, such as body language and speech patterns).

You're on cabin camera: Last year, the Federal Aviation Administration proposed a mandate for cameras in the cabin and wireless devices for flight attendants to alert the cockpit crew to an emergency. That plan may become a reality within the next year.

Winds of change: You know how sometimes your luggage is swabbed to check for possible explosive material? Imagine that happening to your entire body. The technology, which blows a puff of air over a passenger and then tests that air for residue, is readily available and already being used in some cities.

Flying high prices: All this fancy technology and other creative innovations comes with a big price tag. That cost -- and the rising price of fuel -- will probably be passed on to travelers.

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