Leeds Bradford Airport is to start using special full-body security scanners to detect improvised explosive devices which might be strapped to people’s bodies or otherwise hidden.
It is one of 11 UK airports to get the facility in addition to the 10 that already have them.
The scanners were first put into use at airports following the attack on Northwest Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009. In that incident, a 23-year-old Nigerian attempted to ignite an explosive device strapped to his leg by injecting a liquid into it. He was badly burned before being subdued.
Announcing the new measures, Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said last night: “These devices were designed to make detection by existing screening methods extremely difficult. More broadly, the UK threat level remains at substantial. An attack is a strong possibility.”
The body scanners use millimetre wave technology, making it safe even for those who have a pacemaker or are pregnant.
All security scanners also use automatic threat recognition software, which means no image of a passenger is produced. The scan displays a mannequin outline with any suspicious item highlighted by a square.
The machines can identify any concealed objects such as metals, ceramics, plastics, liquids, or drugs, and offer instant results. No images are recorded.
From today, passengers who opt out of being screened by the machines will be allowed a private search alternative. Previously, those who refused were not offered an alternative, and were not allowed to fly on that occasion.
Mr McLoughlin said work is under way with those airports which already deploy security scanners to consider increasing their use.
The other 10 airports which are to get the new scanners installed are Stansted, Luton, Cardiff, Belfast City, Aberdeen, Bristol, Liverpool, Newcastle, East Midlands and Prestwick.
Mr McLoughlin said: “The overwhelming evidence from airports is that nearly all passengers accept the use of security scanners and find the process quick and convenient. I appreciate a small minority may still prefer to request an alternative procedure for a variety of reasons.”