The TSA pat-down is rare, and travelers can make it rarer still
The controversial full-body scanners used by the TSA are installed at a small number of airports in the U.S. But the TSA pat-down is a fact of life at all of them. A very small percentage of air travelers get the TSA pat-down, but there are common sense steps holiday air travelers can take to further lower the odds of a manual body search.
Facts about the TSA pat-down
Of the 450 airports in the U.S., 69 use the full body scanners that create a near-naked image of people. The remaining airports use the good old-fashioned metal detectors everyone is used to. According to the TSA, fewer than 3 percent of air passengers get the TSA pat-down. Those that do either refuse to be scanned, an object is detected during a scan, or someone watching pre-flight screening in a secret room simply decides they look suspicious. A scan gets you through airport screening in about 20 seconds. The TSA pat-down takes a couple of minutes. Pat-downs are conducted by people of the same sex as the person touched by the TSA.
Avoid getting touched by the TSA
The best way to avoid a TSA pat-down is to ignore the hyperbole about digital nudity and radiation exposure and simply walk through the scanner. Fellow air travelers will appreciate the fact they aren’t held up further with airport screening that is already inconvenient. Wear slip-on shoes. Empty your pockets. Put jewelry and spare change in your carry-on, and take bottles out. Don’t wear clothes with a lot of zippers, snaps or studs. Women should wear pants and avoid underwire bras. People with joint replacements or any other internal screws or plates should alert TSA screeners before getting scanned. Try to relax.
What to do if you’re touched by the TSA
About 2 million people fly every day, not including the holidays. The TSA said it has fielded about 2,330 complaints about the TSA pat-down since the procedure was implemented nationwide Nov. 1. The White House said about 340,000 people have been subjected to the TSA pat-down, 1 percent of 34 million people who flew in the past three weeks. For people who are singled out to be touched by the TSA, a private grope can be requested and everyone has a right to have a witness present.