TSA at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport using credential authentication technology to improve checkpoint screening capabilities

Local Press Release
Friday, February 21, 2020

PHOENIX - New technology that confirms the validity of a traveler’s photo identification and confirms their flight information is being used by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers at some of the security checkpoints at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX).

TSA currently has 16 Credential Authentication Technology (CAT) units at PHX and travelers can expect to see them in use at multiple security checkpoints. TSA at PHX began using the technology last month.

When a CAT unit is in use, the traveler will be asked to provide their photo ID. The TSA officer will insert the photo ID into the CAT unit where it will be scanned and analyzed.

CAT units are able to verify whether the traveler’s ID is authentic, fraudulent or expired. In addition, CAT is linked electronically to the Secure Flight database, which provides confirmation of the traveler’s flight details, ensuring they are ticketed for travel that day. CAT also notes the type of screening (such as TSA PreCheck) the traveler is eligible for, all without a boarding pass.

“Through the use of Credential Authentication Technology, TSA officers have another tool that provides real-time fraudulent ID detection capabilities while confirming the identity and flight information of the traveler,” said TSA Federal Security Director for Arizona Jerry Agnew. “We welcome this additional layer of security and enhancement to the travel document checking process.”

Even with TSA’s use of CAT, travelers still need to check-in with their airline and show their boarding pass to the airline gate agent before boarding their flight.

A CAT unit consists of the passport reader, an ID card reader, a Federal personal identity verification ID card reader, a monitor, a stand and a UV light. Each unit costs approximately $27,000 and is programmed to read and scan more than 2,500 different types of IDs.

TSA plans to have more than 500 CAT units deployed at more than 40 airports nationwide by the end of February 2020. CAT units will not be installed at every checkpoint lane at any given airport.

In addition, now is the time for Arizona residents to ensure they are ready for REAL ID enforcement beginning Oct. 1, 2020.


Congress passed The REAL ID Act in 2005, enacting a recommendation from the 9/11 Commission that established minimum security standards for state-issued driver licenses and identification cards. The Act further prohibited federal agencies, including the TSA, from accepting state-issued driver licenses or identification cards that do not meet the minimum standards.

The Arizona Department of Transportation is currently issuing REAL ID-compliant Arizona Travel IDs. Eligibility requirements include providing proof of identity, legal status in the United States, Social Security Number as well as two forms of documentation to confirm primary residency in Arizona. The Arizona Department of Transportation has more information on applying for an Arizona Travel ID that meets REAL ID standards.

On the TSA website, there is a full list of acceptable forms of identification beyond a state-issued travel ID that TSA accepts at the security checkpoint. Some examples of alternate forms of acceptable identification are a U.S. passport, U.S. passport card; active duty and retired military ID including IDs issued to dependents; federally-recognized tribal-issued photo ID; Department of Homeland Security Trusted Traveler card including a Global Entry or SENTRI card; and the Transportation Worker Identification Credential.

Signs are currently posted at airports nationwide reminding the public that REAL ID-compliant licenses or other acceptable forms of identification will be mandatory for commercial air travel beginning on October 1, 2020. For more information, visit TSA’s  Frequently Asked Questions on REAL ID.