This page answers some common questions from passengers about the airport screening process, to help you understand why certain security measures are in place and what you can expect during screening at airports.

There are more questions answered specifically about body scanners at Learn more about body scanners.

Metal objects like those found in pockets, belt buckles, and steel-toed shoes can trigger the metal detector or be indicated on the body scanner. Taking off these items, along with jackets, can decrease the chance of the body scanner flagging any areas as concerning, thereby reducing the need for a pat-down search. Additionally, removing shoes that cover the ankle area ensures that the machine can fully scan this part of the body.

People may be directed to the body scanner in addition to passing through the walk-through metal detector. This can happen if there's an alarm triggered or if they are randomly selected by the technology for further screening. You can find more further information on body scanners at New Zealand airports at Learn about body scanners.

For information about body scanners at New Zealand airports, see Learn about body scanners.

The body scanner is different from metal detectors in that it can detect not only metallic items but also non-metallic items on a person. Passengers go through this screening process to ensure they don't have any dangerous goods or prohibited items like knives, firearms, weapons, or other threat items. This enhanced screening helps guarantee passengers' safety and security during their travels.

Whether you can pass through the walk-through metal detector and body scanner with a pacemaker depends on the medical advice you've received. If your medical advice indicates that you should avoid the metal detector, you can request to go through the body scanner instead. There are no known safety concerns for individuals with pacemakers using these machines, as pacemakers are located under the skin and the body scanners use radio waves that bounce off the skin to detect prohibited items.

It's important to note that body scanners expose a person to less energy than using a cellphone. However, if you still have concerns, you have the option to request a pat-down search instead. During a pat-down search, an officer of the same gender will run or pat their hand over the clothed areas of your body. You can also request this search to be conducted in private, away from the view of others.

Learn about body scanners

Walk-through metal detector (WTMD):

A walk-through metal detector will set off an alarm if it detects a single item with enough metal or the combined metal on a person. However, depending on the type of metal used in your joint replacements, there may not be sufficient metal to trigger the alarm in the metal detector.

Body scanners:

The reason why body scanners don't detect metal joint replacements is that these implants are located under the skin. These machines are specifically designed to detect items carried on the body, not those within the body. They use radio waves that bounce off the skin to identify prohibited items on a person.

When the body scanner detects an anomaly that requires further investigation, we may request your consent for a pat-down search. This is necessary to ensure that individuals entering a passenger screening point do not bring prohibited weapons or unauthorised dangerous goods into a sterile area or onto an aircraft, which could pose a threat to civil aviation.

During a pat-down search, an officer of the same gender will run or pat their hand over the clothed areas of your body. If any sensitive areas need to be searched, such as near private areas, you will be informed, and the officer will use the back of their hands for those parts of the search.

Regional flights with planes that have fewer than 90 seats do not undergo security screening because there is no legal requirement for it. The security screening process is mandated for passenger planes with more than 90 seats and is managed by AvSec (Aviation Security Service). This requirement is outlined in the Director of Civil Aviation's notice issued under the Civil Aviation Act 1990, which directs AvSec to search and screen passengers, crew, checked and carry-on baggage on aircraft with more than 90 passenger seats.

Large electronic devices such as laptops and iPads must be separated from other items in carry-on bags so that security officers can get a clear image of the bag contents on the X-ray machine. This process helps ensure the safety and security of passengers. Please note that this procedure may change soon with new technology.

Unfortunately, no, you cannot retrieve items that you surrender at the screening point. Each day, many passengers give up prohibited items to pass through security screening, but operationally, a retrieval system isn’t possible.

You can find information about what items are restricted from carry-on luggage on our website: What can I bring? Make sure you pack in your checked luggage any items of cultural or religious significance that can’t be brought into the cabin due to security reasons.

AvSec is required to prevent passengers from bringing items capable of causing serious injury onto an aircraft. These items include firearms, disabling weapons, explosives, blunt instruments, blades, and metal shafts.

If you refuse to surrender dangerous goods and prohibited items found in your luggage:

  • You won't be allowed to proceed through the screening point.
  • Your airline will be informed of your refusal.

In general, you can keep food or snacks like fruit, health bars, and sandwiches in your carry-on bag. However, it's important to be cautious when entering other countries and New Zealand which have biosecurity restrictions on food items, and food items may need to be disposed of or declared.

For international departures, there are additional restrictions for PLAGs (powders, liquids, aerosols, and gels). However, there are exceptions for certain items, such as food, drink, and medicine for young children, as well as medically necessary items.

As part of the global aviation network, New Zealand is required to screen passengers boarding international flights to meet specific standards set by international obligations. Restrictions on powders and liquids are in place to help ensure passengers' safety and security during international travel.

For domestic flights, there are no restrictions on bringing medication.

However, for international flights, there are restrictions on powders and liquids. Pills or tablets must not exceed 350 millilitres [350 grams], and liquid medication must be in containers that are no larger than 100 millilitres. The total volume of liquids must not exceed one litre. If you have more medication than these limits allow, we won’t remove it if there’s evidence that the medicine is prescribed by a medical practitioner for the person travelling.

To ensure smooth passage through security, make sure your medication is in its original container with the prescription information. Additionally, have a letter from your medical practitioner detailing what you're taking, the required quantity, and that the medication may need to be used during the flight. This letter is necessary to confirm that any medicine in excess of these limits is eligible for the exception.

Passengers are allowed to carry dialysis solution in their carry-on bag if it needs to be used during the flight or during transit between flights.

If you need extra help, please contact your airline for assistance.

You can find information about expected peak times on our website: Anticipated peak times at security screening. It's best to check this information the day before your travel for the most up-to-date peak times. If your boarding time falls within or shortly after a peak security screening time, we suggest arriving at the airport earlier than usual to allow for extra time in case of queues.

We kindly ask passengers to remain calm while moving through the lanes for security screening. Make sure you're prepared to place all your items, including bags and jackets, into the x-ray trays for the screening process.

AvSec is not able to prioritise passengers. Passengers can only be prioritised in the queue on the request of an airline representative attending the security area.