Passenger's Lament: 'Don't Pat Me Down'

Avoid holiday travel trials. Here's how to make it through airport security with the least possible hassle.

Santa, Rudolph and the reindeer gang have it easy when they fly the friendly holiday skies — nobody's telling them to take off their jackets, belts and shoes.

For the rest of us, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has tips on how to make it through a metal detector or advanced imaging technology unit without setting off an alarm — thus reducing your chances of a pat-down search by a security officer.

Dress for success: Think comfort and security, not fashion statement, when choosing what to wear on a flight. You'll have to remove shoes and jacket or coat, and probably your belt, so wear slip-on shoes and skip a belt if you can. Avoid bulky jewelry and clothing with a high metallic content or metal decorations.

Pocket protocol: The TSA says the most important thing you can do to avoid alarms is to take everything out of your pockets before passing through the machine.

De-pierce: Some body piercings can set off the alarm. The TSA says that if additional screening is required, passengers may be asked to remove their body piercing in private as an alternative to a pat-down search.

Baby yourself: Take infants and young children out of baby carriers and strollers and carry them through the metal detector. Strollers and baby carriers go through the X-ray machine with your bags. If possible, collapse the stroller first.


TSA guidelines:

  • The patdown should be conducted by an officer of the same gender. Sometimes, passengers must wait for an officer of the same gender to become available.
  • The passenger can request a private screening at any time and a private screening should be offered when the officer must patdown sensitive areas. During a private screening, another TSA employee will also be present and the passenger may be accompanied by a companion of his or her choosing.
  • A passenger may ask for a chair if he or she needs to sit down.
  • A passenger should inform an officer before the patdown begins of any difficulty raising his or her arms, remaining in the position required for a pat-down, or any areas of the body that are painful when touched.
  • A passenger should not be asked to remove or lift any article of clothing to reveal a sensitive body area.

Security officers should work with parents to resolve any alarms at the checkpoint. If required, a child may receive a modified pat-down. Parents are encouraged to ensure their children have taken all items out of their pockets as they go through the security checkpoint.

For more information, see the TSA website.

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