New Exit Portals at Airports: “Detention Pods”?

These four exit portals were recently installed at Syracuse Hancock International Airport. Photograph by FlyerTalk member bkafrick. Click on the photograph to view additional photographs by bkafrick.


If you are like me, you cannot wait to leave the secure area of an airport after the conclusion of your flight and have collected your belongings.
You might say that with the speed at which I walk — developed from navigating the streets as a native New Yorker — this weblog should probably be called The Gait
…but my speed will be interrupted — if only momentarily — upon my egress from the secure area of an airport with the installation of futuristic exit portals. One of the first airports in the United States to have installed four of these exit portals — approved by the Transportation Security Administration — is the international airport in Syracuse, New York as part of a $60 million renovation.
These exit portals are supposedly designed to improve security by allowing travelers to only exit the secure area of the airport. There are two doors which lend to the alternate moniker of “detention pod” for the exit portal: you enter through the first door into the portal. The first door then closes, “trapping” you for a second or so until the second door opens, allowing you to complete your exit.
If someone attempts to go back into the secure area of the airport through the exit portal by going in the wrong direction, that person will be detained involuntarily until appropriate personnel arrive to assess the situation — helping to prevent a potential lockdown of at least one concourse at the airport when an unauthorized person runs back into the secure area of the airport without properly passing through the airport security checkpoint. For example, Terminal C at Newark International Airport was reportedly purged of travelers and temporarily shut down when one unauthorized person supposedly entered the secure area of the airport without being properly screened back in January of 2010…
…and that is only one of a number of examples of security breaches which have cost time and money in the form of flight delays and the deployment of law enforcement personnel. The new exit portals are designed to be part of a system of tools to prevent occurrences such as the one at the international airport in Newark from happening again.
Speaking of saving money, monitoring the exits from the secure area of the airport by agents of the Transportation Security Administration — performed since the inception of the federal agency on November 19, 2001 — will no longer be required, as the combination of exit portals and surveillance cameras will replace them…
…but do not mistake that to mean that those agents of the Transportation Security Administration will automatically be out of a job. Rather, they may most likely be re-assigned elsewhere in the airport — in the form of conducting more identification checks and searches of passengers at airport gates, perhaps?
Furthermore, the Transportation Security Administration intends to shift the responsibility of security at the exit lanes at airports from its personnel to that of the airports as soon as this coming January — potentially costing those airports more than $200 million per year while simultaneously saving the Transportation Security Administration greater than $88 million per year. Despite a cost of $6.4 million at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport — which was designated as the first airport to be equipped with the technology — installation of the exit portals could potentially help in alleviating that cost for the airports.
Although there are a number of potential problems which could become reality — such as what if the exit portals malfunction — my question is what happens to traffic during a holiday weekend when hundreds of passengers attempt to leave the secure area of the airport. Will there be long lines or significant waits?
I would think that there are more effective ways to improve the efficacy of airport security — and at a lower cost. I have not personally used these exit portals, so I cannot comment on them.
Have you used exit portals? If so, what do you think? Even if you have not used them, do you believe that exit portals are a good idea towards improving airport security overall?

3 thoughts on “New Exit Portals at Airports: “Detention Pods”?”

  1. jmd001 says:

    So what happens if there is a non-terrorist event which requires RAPID evacuation of a terminal equipped with these pods? (e.g., fire, weather damage, earthquake, …)

  2. Michael says:

    What’s wrong with the revolving doors that some airports have? You can’t enter back into the secure area, but they provide for a smooth flow of traffic out.

  3. Diabo says:

    Futuristic exit portals? These things have been around for years at lots of airports.
    And they’re a great invention, because human errors outnumber technical problems.

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