Airports can be great places to hang out at after you get through security.

Airports can be great places to hang out at after you get through security.

The last few years, the more I fly, the more I see body scanners. To date, even though many airports I travel to and from have body scanners,  I have been able to avoid them — and pat-downs as well.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not about making a huge stand and doing whatever I can to avoid them. I just do what any normal passenger might try to avoid an additional delay at the airport.

Most of the time I fly out of Seattle-Tacoma International airport (SEA), where they have three main check points. At each check point there are multiple security lines and each line has access to a body scanner. Problem is, on many occasions there will be multiple lines open, but only one body scanner active.

A TSA agent will check my ID and boarding pass and then I have the ability to choose which security line I want. Of course, I choose a line that does not have a body scanner active and viola I have avoided the $150,000.00 high-tech scanner.

I have noticed at some airports there will be a second TSA  employee telling you which line to go in, but often this person is missing or also easy to ignore if one wanted to. Could the TSA demand you go to line #1 with the body scanners and then escort you over? Sure, but that is a pretty embarrassing situation to put a person in, especially if it ends up being only people of a certain race.

This is not a big deal if someone who means airlines no harm can avoid the body scanners, but it would be just as easy for someone wanting to do harm. Take away all the privacy and health concerns; what is the point of spending all this money for the machines, training, and man-power to “keep us all safe,” if they can be consistently avoided? My father always told me, “if you are going to do something, do it right.” Sure, I didn’t always listen as a kid, but I think it is good advice for the TSA — I only hope they are listening.

How have your experiences with the body scanners gone? Have you noticed the same lack of consistency?

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me: [email protected]

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38 Comments
masimons

I figured TSA’s objective is to be inconsistent, so the “evil ones” can’t plan a way around. I’m the type to opt-out if need be, but I also know to time my passage when the scanner is not in use; although they’ve seemed to be mostly roped off nowadays.

Well, I guess they have been consistent by not doing a good job with the body scanners.

David

drew V

Recently, I have had occasion to fly more and it seems that if the body scanner is open, they’re directing me to it. I think they’re trying to encourage its use if the line isn’t backed up. The baggage inspection seems to be the lag so it doesn’t seem to save me time either way. I did see a few opt out and they just delayed their own progress through security. I’ve found the officers to be very polite and cordial. I suppose I’d rather be seen than touched if I had a choice.

At one airport, one of the security checkpoints had only one scanner and if the line got backed up, TSA guided you towards the traditional scanner. The likelihood of getting scanned at that checkpoint is obviously less than at the main one at this one airport I flew out of.

Songstar

There are some airports with allow you to apply for a purchase a frequent user card and you go through with your carryon’s into another door before the security area. much like the airline crews have.

Christine

I recently flew round trip form LAX to FLL. In LAX there were 3 lanes, 2 with the scanners and 1 with the metal detector and there all you had to do was put yourself in the metal detector lane. In FLL they had several lanes also with only 1 lane for a metal detector and all others were scanners. In FLL if you were not in a wheelchair or a family (with child) you were directed to the scanner lanes. We allowed a few others to join us each time we went through in FLL claiming them as part of our family (first trip was 2 people who were running late for flights thanks to long security line and second was 2 college age girls who did not want to be seen naked). Both times through it made our life a little easier as we had some extra hands to help us get all of our stuff onto the belt and everyone was grateful to go through the lane. TSA agent was not thrilled by our large entourage, but there was really nothing they could say if we had grandma and a nanny with us or 2 nannies with us.

I am not willing to play Russian roulette with an organization which on a whim can decide whether to force you through a scanner or not. Nor do I support the use of a frequent flyer card that provides the illusion that somehow you will be exempt from TSA gestapo tactics.

Some of my fellow citizens are sick and elderly or they are seven years old or younger, and have *no clue* what is going on at the airports. As long as the little old lady who doesn’t fly very often is subjected to unconstitutional invasion of privacy and endangerment to her fragile health, simply because she does not have a frequent flyer card, I will not support any tactics or bones thrown to us by TSA that serve to exempt one class of citizens while the others are not.

Congress has no backbone and is going along with DHS/TSA’s unconstitutional bullying tactics. They are in cahoots to keep the citizenry divided into star-bellied sneeches and plain-bellied sneeches because by getting citizens to squabble amongst each other and resent each other that is how the politicans stay in power. Even a six-year old child who reads Dr. Seuss could see through that.

You can’t forget the airports that don’t have these scanners. Last time I flew out of Des Moines (August) and Minneapolis (March), the security lines did not have scanners installed. Minneapolis is a large airport, and even though Des Moines is not, there are A320s and MD80s taking passengers to Denver, Chicago, Atlanta, etc., and these passengers are not screened.

That is a very good point. It is easy to start you trip at an airport without scanners and then fly to another to do harm. However I think the idea is someday all airports will have scanners that aren’t used :).

David

Daniel

They send everyone through scanners here in Dayton, OH. Every time I fly, I get the lovely pat down.

Well Dayton, OH is pretty well known for being a hub of terrorism (that is sarcasm in case you can’t tell). What a pain!

David

asfasfaklsj

Forget the privacy issue, I’m more worried about the fact that a taxpayer funded organization is giving us cancer

FWIW, flying out of DEN recently I’ve been scanned more often than not. I seem to remember getting scanned out of SAT last Easter as well. Not scanned on my way out of MCO, scanned at DEN on my way there. Not scanned at AUS, ever. Scanned at SFO on the way back to DEN.

Right now, full body scanners are a fact of life…when the TSA feels like pushing people through them. If your security line is short, you get full-body scanned…apparently terrorists don’t strike when security lines are at their peak and damage would be maximal.

I’m not quite a frequent flyer (Monday will mark the completion of my third round trip in two months, and my 6th this year) but I’m at airports enough to notice trends on security. My conclusion: full body scanners are making a small number of people a lot of money, giving a large number of people an elevated dose of radiation, and making travel just a little more annoying. Not safe, annoying.

I think you might have nailed it. However, it does provide people not willing to do the research a false sense of security, so therefor they are still around. The anger surrounding the scanners lasted its 15min and now it is done.

David

JC Whatheheck

I recently took two trips in two weeks out of different airports to different destinations and was only scanned once (at SJC). That’s once out of 5 trips thru TSA’s cattle round up. The rest of the time was thru metal detectors (SFO,ANC,SEA,PDX). I find this aspect of security to be very inconsistent. Even during light times the scanners sit unused at some airports. Hard to figure.

Sorry to say this David but the TSA people at SEA have consistently been some of the rudest I meet. I was on a early AM flight to SFO last week and was surprised how “snarly” the TSA folks were. Hey, it’s early for all of us-lighten up !

Oh do not be sorry to say that. I love Seattle and I love the airport here, but do not love the TSA. A trip down to SFO a few months back I was in line behind a woman with a cat in a carrier and she was having a little difficulty getting her cat out of the carrier (not a surprise). Instead of being supportive or trying to help, the TSA agent at the metal detector said, “Jesus Christ lady, come on.” Yea. Real classy.

David

I have noticed this for many years now, dating back to the bomb residue “sniffing” machines. From JFK, BUF, DTW, LGA, etc, you can easily avoid these scanners by picking a line that visibly does not have one, or go to a check point that doesn’t even have one on any line. Very stupid.

I am a frequent flyer and I have gotten the body scanner an average of 9 out of 10 times. In Phoenix I use to be able to avoid it by going through a certain checkpoint but not anymore. In Tulsa, and Albuquerque every passenger always go through them. In St. Louis every checkpoint has them in the East terminal, but Its purely random.

Again another example of how the TSA has jumped to conclusions on something they haven’t even tested before use. We just waste billions of dollars, and then some how they are going to find another way to spend billions more.

Wow 9 out of 10 times? I have done PHX a few times, but I guess I got lucky 🙂

David

One more thing. What are the odds that we will catch a terrorist randomly???? Seriously come on Janet!!! TSA =#FAIL!!!

David,

They had been installing them over the past few years, but lately they have them at every lane. Some go through metal detectors some dont. I finally made a comment by saying you guys are wasting a lot of man hours screening frequent flyers like me. I have had 10 year back ground checks, use to hold a SIDA badge at this very airport, and I have a US passport and have been all over the world. I’m not a threat but you get in the last 10 trips you’ve screened me 9 of the times.

I even expressed concerned about my equipment (cameras and stuff) being stolen as I wait my turn to go through the machine, because the rude agents forced me to put my stuff in the x-ray before I felt comfortable.

What do you do? Through a fit and get a power trip from the TSA or do you just shake your head and no your treated so horribly.

Due to 2 knee replacements,I for one have had to suffer pat downs every time I fly. Some TSA Agents have gotten way too familiar with my body parts. Since the body scanners emite about the same amount of radiation that a microwave does, I opt for that line. I’m thru the line in very little time, don’t have to wait until a female TSA Agent is available(and they never are) and listen to the same speach. I could care less if someone in another part of the airport sees my outline and metal parts. If this is the best way to keep me safe, I’m all for it!!

Greg Mullins

Most everyone say they don’t mind the occassional patdown or going through the body scanner because they have nothing to hide. I agree to that except what about those individual that set off the electronic scanner every time they go throu it. I’m talking about the individuals with implants, knees, hips etc. They have no choice. They are subjected to the full body pat down and or the body scanners. Their only crime is they wanted the ability to walk without pain and they have 2 1/2 pounds (approximately) of titanium inside their body. Why must they be subjected to the delays when others are not. Why not send EVERYONE through the scanners. That would make more sense. I’ve stopped flying because of this. I now drive or take the train and I’m reaquainting myself with the contry. I’m enjoying life now.

Nick St. Amant

Body scanners? Not an issue for this 69-year old. Who cares?

But even if you don’t care about someone seeing your body, that is one thing. How about the idea that millions of your money is being spent on devices that are rarely used and easily avoided?

David

Amanda Ford

My dear, if they are not an issue for you then you need to educate yourself a little more about them and you also need a reality check. You should care. These machines cause cancer. Check it out! Furthermore, your body belongs to you, not to the government and when government starts crossing the line into your personal space and disregarding your fundamental right to dignity and privacy then there are going to be real problems in the future. This is not only an individual issue, it is a collective issue and when someone gives up their rights because they ‘don’t care’ it affects everyone else who understands what freedom is and how important it is to limit the amount of control that the government has over us. I find your attitude irresponsible. Do you really want your children and grandchildren to live in a society where the police state is the only environment they have ever known?

What bothers me more than any expensive equipment is the TSA’s attitude!!! They are so stinkin rude.

Lynn N.

David, you said, “The anger surrounding the scanners lasted its 15min and now it is done.”

I have to tell you that you’re so very wrong about that. The anger lives on in thousands of people who have simply decided to quit flying in order to avoid these tyrannical tactics being utilized by TSA. I am only one of those people.

Anyone who is opposed to these idiotic and ineffective … ahem! … “security” measures is invited to join us at Boycott Flying on Facebook, where we have been following this charade since November 2010.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Boycott-Flying/126801010710392

Hey Lynn,

I was talking more about the covered anger by the media and even politicians coming out asking for change. That whole movement has seemed to die out. I think the grassroots movement is still well alive and even though boycotting flying all together might be a bit extreme in my opinion, I think people should still stand up for what they believe in.

David

Lynn N.

David,

Joining the group doesn’t mean that you “have” to quit flying. It’s simply a place to become fully educated on what TSA’s shenanigans are all about.

It’s a personal choice to quit flying, and I choose to not fly because, being a sexual assault survivor, there is no way that I could submit to those very graphic and invasive measures without ending up in jail, myself.

Others have quit flying because being strip searched or having their privates groped by some government goon wearing a blue shirt, latex gloves and a tin badge goes completely against our natural human right to be secure in our person, and free from unreasonable search without probably suspicion AND a warrant.

Through our research we have found that there is NO amount of radiation that is considered safe and without health risks. We have also found that the paw-downs are also extremely dangerous because the goons don’t even bother to change gloves between gropings. There’s no telling what disease the person had before you …

Joining Boycott Flying just means that you will have access to all of the research we have done to date, plus anything else that comes along in the future.

Lynn

Amanda Ford

Exactly the points I was trying to make to someone earlier. How well you put it. I do not understand why anyone would walk through these machines and if everyone refused and threatened to call 911 or better still just refused to fly I think we the people would prevail very quickly. Sadly people only consider their own wellbeing when this is such a far-reaching issue that it affects everyone. In this situation your personal choice affects us all. Personally, just the idea of getting irradiated by a machine I know nothing about gives me the creeps. Also I would add to your post that there are real maintenance issues with these machines because they need to be correctly calibrated. Would you be willing to trust an agency like TSA with your life? I don’t think so.

Also, for your info I was doing my own feasibility assessment with someone and we came to the conclusion that with these scanners offered less security than previous methods used. This is without considering other important factors such as the airports being unsecured, are open to surface to air missile attacks and vulnerable because of the large numbers of people often in the security lines. A recent video shown to Congress showed that there were multiple security lapses over the entire airport complex. Also the TSA agents seem particularly susceptible to human error at many levels which makes them a liability rather than an enhancement to security. We found that since the scanners can only detect metal objects and do not register the type of material that constitutes explosives, they do exactly the same work as the metal detectors which are already in place. Given that they have now removed the puffer devices that some airports had that could actually detect the presence of explosives and they rarely if ever use sniffer dogs the obvious conclusion has to be that these scanners have diminshed security rather than improving it and are duplicating that which is already being done. Depending on which figures you believe you have a one in 20 or 30 million chance of dying from a terrorist attack, about the same as being struck by lightning or dying in your bath. According to government figures, which greatly underestimate the health hazards of these machines, you have a one in 30 million chance of getting cancer from exposure, therefore statistically it is not worth having them. Don’t you just love the logic!

Rick Bailey

David,

I agree with Carol – I have 3 artificial Joints – I try to get the scanners because that avoids the pat down. That gets me through the screening much faster.

The last trip my wife and I took to PHX, as we were going through security on our way home, I was put through the regular metal detector, while my wife was put through the scanner for a “special screening.” When the TSA agent came over to the belt to test her things for residue, he only grabbed 2 of her 3 things. I told him that the purse on the belt was hers too, but he just rolled his eyes and started checking her other belongings. I guess terrorists are very selective now as to what they will touch after making an explosive device. Maybe that’s why he wouldn’t check her purse. (this is me with my eyes rolling into the back of my head) There are so many holes in this “security” system, it makes me sick.

Songstar

Some of the scantilly dressed women ( flip flops, shorts the maker ran out of fabric making, NO bra).. want to complain about a scanner?

BACFlyer

I like the human touch – so I always opt-out and go the pat-down route.

Suzie B

It seems the brew ha ha of the attack of the body scanners has subsided. The last opinion was posted on 5/19/11. I have traveled quite a bit and have not had the opportunity to use the body scanner. I will actually select the line that will hasten my passage through security. Happy travels!

catherine

these machines are not safe! went through the mmw 5 times last year and got a strange precancerous lesion on my scalp that had to be removed. Not safe! Avoid them at all costs.

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