NEW ORLEANS - The Transportation Security Administration is updating security procedures at airports across the country.
The agency hasn't released many specifics (for security reasons), but some travelers feel the pat-down process goes a little too far.
It doesn't matter where you're flying from or headed to, you'll have to go through airport security to get there.
“You have to take everything out of your pockets, remove your belt, take off your shoes," said visitor Rosie Gonzalez. "It's a process."
However the next time you get screened, you may see a change. On March 2nd, TSA consolidated their previous pat-down procedures into one standardized process. Meaning the full-body pat-down is the same no matter what airport you're in. Some who've experienced it say it felt awkward.
“It was very uncomfortable," said Alexandra Zuder. "They just kind of invade your property like they didn’t care.”
TSA wouldn't say what the "standardized procedure" specifically entails, but sent a statement to Eyewitness News saying:
"Effective March 2, 2017, TSA consolidated previous pat-down procedures into one standardized pat-down procedure at airport security checkpoints and at other locations within the airport. This standardized pat-down procedure continues to utilize enhanced security measures implemented several months ago, and does not involve any different areas of the body than were screened in the previous standard pat-down procedure. Individuals transiting the TSA security checkpoint who have opted out of technology screening, or alarmed the technology or a canine team, will undergo a pat-down. Passengers may also receive a pat-down as part of our unpredictable security measures. TSA continues to adjust and refine our systems and procedures to meet the evolving threat and to achieve the highest levels of transportation security."
Their website also describes the pat-down process which "may include inspection of the head, neck, arms, torso, legs, and feet. This includes head coverings and sensitive areas such as breasts, groin, and the buttocks. You may be required to adjust clothing during the pat-down. The officer will advise you of the procedure to help you anticipate any actions before you feel them. Pat-downs require sufficient pressure to ensure detection."
It continues to say "TSA officers use the back of the hands for pat-downs over sensitive areas of the body. In limited cases, additional screening involving a sensitive area pat-down with the front of the hand may be needed to determine that a threat does not exist. You will receive a pat-down by an officer of the same gender. TSA officers will explain the procedures to you as they conduct the pat-down."
TSA also told Eyewitness News that not everybody will get a full body pat-down, that it’ll only be done in certain situations. For example, it a K-9 senses a threat or if you opt out of the machine that takes a full body scan.
Travelers we spoke with see both sides. Some, like Rosie Gonzalez, have concerns.
"It would bother me if they started patting more on the private side, getting a little more touchy yes," she said. “This is your body and it’s private."
However, others feel it's okay because for them it means a secure trip for all.
“I think security should give you a hassle to a certain extent because it’s safety first," said Carl Lewis. "In the midst of that though, I think a female should search a female and a male should search a male. But you know it’s tricky today with people sneaking all kinds of weapons. It’s all about your safety.”
According to CBS News, an internal review done two years ago showed TSA officers failed to detect 95% of fake explosives and weapons smuggled through checkpoints by undercover investigators. It's unclear though if this "standardized pat-down process" is a result of those findings.
TSA though says there are things one can do to lessen the chances of getting a full-body pat-down by "practicing careful preparation for the checkpoint."
Here is what they suggest:
- Be sure to remove everything from your pockets even before you get to the checkpoint and place the items into your purse or other carry on bag.
- Be sure you don't have your phone on a holster on your body.
- Place your wallet into your carryon bag before getting to the checkpoint. If you forgot to remove your wallet, you can hold it up in your hand in the advanced imaging technology machine.
- There is no need to remove rings.