Passenger screening

The Department of Home Affairs sets the broad requirements and outcomes for aviation security. This includes setting the requirements for passenger screening. The delivery of aviation security services is the direct responsibility of airports and their contractors.

Aviation security screening practices can differ across Australian airports. Each airport has their own procedures in place to conduct passenger security screening in a way that achieves the required level of security. For more information, check with your airline or the airport you are visiting before you travel.

Security screening process

Security screening is compulsory for all persons entering the secure area of an Australian airport terminal and boarding a flight. This includes:

  • passengers
  • people accompanying passengers to the boarding gate
  • aircrew and airport workers.

Before you arrive at the airport, you should prepare yourself for screening by knowing what you can and cannot take on board, and what to expect from the screening process:

  1. Place all personal items including wallets or purses in your carry-on baggage. Place your carry-on baggage on the X-ray conveyor belt for screening.
  2. You may be required to remove items such as laptops, iPads, aerosols or liquids from your carry-on baggage. If you are asked to remove these items, you will need to place them in the tray provided for separate screening through the X-ray.
  3. Place metallic items such as keys, coins and mobile phones in the tray or your carry-on baggage.
  4. Before screening, you should inform screening officers if you have any medical devices, aids or implants. If you have a letter or supporting documentation from your doctor or healthcare professional, you can show this to the screening officer at this time to assist them to select the most appropriate screening method.
  5. You will be screened using either a body scanner or walk-through metal detector. You need to remove all items from your pockets before screening. Failure to do so may result in alarms, which will need further screening.
  6. If an issue is identified, you may be asked to go through the security screening process again until you are cleared. This may include other screening methods, including but not limited to hand-held metal detector and frisk search.
  7. You may also be selected at random for explosive trace detection screening after proceeding through the initial screening process. 

Fact sheet – passenger screening

Screening technology

Body scanners are used at many Australian domestic and international airports. Body scanners are designed to detect prohibited items worn or carried on a person, not just metallic items. This technology represents the most advanced means of detecting items worn or carried on a person including:

  • explosives
  • weapons
  • other prohibited items.

A passenger will need further screening if an alarm sounds while they are undergoing screening using a body scanner.

It is an Australian Government requirement that body scanners used for aviation security screening in Australia use non-ionising technology. This means they do not emit ionising radiation like that of X-rays. Body scanners do not pose any known health risks to passengers or operators. There are also no known safety concerns to people with active implantable medical devices, such as pacemakers.

Body scanners used in airport security screening in Australia do not collect or store any personal information. The machines collect radio waves emitted by or reflected from the body. They then create a three-dimensional image in a generic format that protects passengers’ privacy and shows no human anatomy.

Special circumstances

Alternative screening processes are available for travellers with special circumstances. This is to ensure everyone is treated with dignity and respect. For more information, see: Travellers with special circumstances. This also includes advice on what to expect when travelling with young children.

Your rights at the screening point

Screening is compulsory for all travellers. When you enter a screening point, you are agreeing to each screening procedure. Where you need a frisk search, you will be asked for your consent to this process. If you consent to the frisk search, you will be offered the option of having it conducted in a private room. A screening officer of the same gender will conduct the frisk search. They must ensure that the frisk search is conducted in a way that preserves dignity and treats all travellers equally.

You have the right to refuse any screening process. If you refuse you will not be permitted  to continue to the gate or board your flight.

If you feel you have experienced an inappropriate screening process at a security checkpoint, you can ask to speak with a supervisor at the checkpoint. You can also lodge a complaint with the airport.

Additional security measures for travellers flying to Australia from the Middle East

Passengers from Abu Dhabi, Dubai or Doha will be subject to random explosive trace detection (ETD) screening if they:

  • board a direct flight to Australia
  • start their journey in another country and then board an Australian bound flight.

ETD screening will take place at the boarding gate. Before boarding your flight at the gate you will be asked to present your carry-on baggage. This is to conduct the usual checks for prohibited powders, liquids, aerosols and gels. If you are selected for random ETD screening, you will be asked to remove any electronic items that are on you or in your carry-on bags. You, your carry-on bags and your electronic items will be swabbed and the swab will then be analysed for any traces of explosives.

If you are unsure whether these measures apply to your flight, check with your airline or the airport you are visiting.

For information on your travel destination visit the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's Smartraveller website.

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