January 3, 2010 / 2:27 PM / 10 years ago

BAA to introduce full-body scanners at UK's Heathrow

LONDON (Reuters) - British airport operator BAA said on Sunday it would move quickly to install full-body scanners at London’s Heathrow airport after the failed Christmas Day attack on a U.S.-bound plane.

Travellers walk past BAA luggage trolleys at Heathrow airport in west London August 20, 2008. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

“Now that the government has given the go-ahead, we will introduce full-body scanners as soon as practical,” a spokesman for BAA, owned by Spain’s Ferrovial, told Reuters.

“It is our view that a combination of technology, intelligence and passenger profiling will help build a more robust defense against the unpredictable and changing nature of the terrorist threat to aviation,” he said.

He said BAA, which operates six British airports, was just looking at introducing the scanners at Heathrow — Europe’s busiest airport by passenger numbers — at this stage. He could not give a timetable for their introduction or say how much the move would cost.

The Netherlands and Nigeria said last week they would use full-body scanners at airports after the failed attack on a U.S.-bound plane by a 23-year-old Nigerian suspect who passed through both countries.

Full-body scanners, unlike standard archway metal detectors used in airports around the world, use radio waves to generate a picture of the body that can see through a person’s clothing and spot hidden weapons or packages.


But Britain’s Independent on Sunday newspaper cast doubt on whether the scanners would have been effective in detecting the type of explosive used in the Christmas Day incident.

BAA said last week the introduction of full-body scanners would require a change in European legislation.

But Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who ordered a review of security measures at British airports after the attempted December 25 attack, said on Sunday the scanners would be phased in.

“In airports, people will see gradually being brought in the use of full-body scanners. They will see checks for explosive traces. That will be done on hand luggage. Transit passengers will also be checked ...,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr.

“The scanners are already being ordered by British Airports Authority (BAA),” he said.

A trial of full-body scanning has been underway at Britain’s Manchester airport, which is not operated by BAA, since October but a spokesman said last week the airport had taken no decision on whether it would adopt the technology.

In Germany, Education and Research Minister Annette Schavan told Bild am Sonntag newspaper Germany could introduce body scanners later this year. The government has made clear it is not against the scanners in principle but is trying to guarantee privacy rights.

Italy aims to install full-body scanners at the main airports of Rome and Milan for flights considered at high risk of terrorist attack, Interior Minister Roberto Maroni told Corriere della Sera newspaper on Saturday.

Additional reporting by Madeline Chambers in Berlin; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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